November 11, 2013

Meet Mike Allegra! - Author of Sarah Gives Thanks PLUS A Giveaway!!!

Happy Monday, Everyone, and welcome to another fun-filled week!

Seeing as I'm here, I'm sure you've all surmised that I survived the Young Writers' Workshop yesterday.  Just goes to show that apparently you CAN teach an old dog new tricks :)  The first graders and I had a pretty good time learning how to make up characters... including a giant flying egg salad sandwich who goes by the name of Bob :)

Today I have a treat for you!

An interview with Mike Allegra himself!

And a giveaway of his fantastic book, SARAH GIVES THANKS!  (Which, if you're not familiar with, you can read a great PPBF review from Stacy Jensen HERE!)

Oh.

You thought I meant a treat treat?  Okay fine.  How 'bout waffles in honor of Mike, who has a fabulous feature called Waffles With Writers!  Let's pick something healthful and nutritious to start our week off right....
A little chocolate ice cream never did a waffle any harm :)  YUM!

And speaking of waffles (probably with our mouths full of them) that is a perfect segue into our interview with Mike, who kindly answered all my questions except the ones that would have landed him in Witness Protection.

SH:  Thanks so much for joining us this morning, Mike!  Let's start with what I would really have to call the most crucial question on today's agenda: What is your favorite way to eat waffles?

MA:  That is a crucial question, Susanna. I thank you for asking it.

My answer is: It depends. If the waffles are frozen, I like to use them as the bread for a toasty peanut butter and raspberry jelly sandwich. This turns out to be an excellent breakfast on days when I’m too sleepy to operate anything more complicated than a toaster. (Such a meal isn’t complete, by the way, unless it is accompanied by two ginormous mugfuls of Sumatra coffee.)

If I have more time on my hands to make the batter and pull out the waffle iron, my tastes change. All I need is a little pat of butter and some pure maple syrup and I’m good to go. It’s Heaven on a plate.

SH:  What was the inspiration for your book, SARAH GIVES THANKS?


MA:  I didn’t get inspired until later in the process. In the beginning, I was leaping at an opportunity. Over the years I had managed to cultivate a chatty relationship with an editor at Albert Whitman and Company. The editor had yet to give me a contract, but she liked my writing enough to give me the occasional lead. So one day she called me up and said, “We’re on the lookout for a Thanksgiving story. Do you have a Thanksgiving story?”

“Yes, I do!” I announced, eager to get my foot in the door. “Give me a couple of weeks to revise it and I’ll send it to you!”

Well, that was a little fib. I didn’t have a Thanksgiving story. So I had to come up with something fast to turn my little lie into a belated truth.

That was when I stumbled upon the story about how Sarah Hale led a 36-year grassroots effort to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday. I immediately fell in love with Sarah’s story and researched as much as I could in the couple of weeks I had allotted for myself. I banged out a manuscript and sent it off. The draft wasn’t great, but it was good enough to make my earlier lie seem sort of plausible.

Thank goodness the editor liked it enough to ask for a rewrite. I was delighted; I now had time to conduct proper research!

SH:  A nonfiction picture book such as this one must have required quite a lot of research.  Can you describe your research process bearing in mind that some of us attended college in the last millennium and are extremely rusty and/or never learned proper research techniques?  

MA:  I did do a lot of research on Sarah. The first thing I did was buy books about her, including an excellent (out of print) book from the 1930s titled The Lady of Godey’s by Ruth Finely. The bulk of my research, however, was done at The Library Company, an archive in Philadelphia that had an incredible collection of Sarah’s writings. I found tons of information there that ended up in my story – information that no other author had used before.

The more I learned about Sarah, the more geeked out I became. Sarah Hale is one impressive person. Not only did she lead the campaign to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday, but she also was the first female magazine editor in America. She was one of the first female novelists in America – and the very first to condemn slavery in a novel. (Take that, Harriet Beecher Stowe!) She was a tireless advocate for women’s education. She led huge fundraising drives to turn Bunker Hill and Mount Vernon into national landmarks. She even wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb!” And she was influential – sort of the Oprah of her day. When she said something, America listened.

SH:  What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? Do you have research or topic selection tips for nonfiction PB writers just getting started?

MA: Use the internet, but never trust it. If you look something up on Wikipedia, for example, be sure focus your efforts on the article’s sources. Then find those sources and read them yourself. Always check your facts. Then double check them. I discovered errors in just about Sarah Hale book out there – which, I must admit, made me feel rather smug and superior.

As for your first question, it depends on whether it is an African or European swallow. 

SH:  Was SARAH accepted by the first house you sent her to?  Tell us about your path to publication...

MA:  SARAH was accepted by Albert Whitman, which was the first and only house I sent it to. But the path to publication didn’t seem all that certain. After I submitted my revised draft, the publishing house didn’t communicate with me for a number of months. Things move slowly in publishing – but this felt too slow. I sensed there was a problem.

Eventually I contacted my editor who, rather candidly explained that Albert Whitman was having reservations about publishing SARAH GIVE THANKS. The editors had just discovered that Laurie Halse Anderson had already written a picture book about Sarah Hale titled THANK YOU, SARAH! The book was 10 years old, but it was still in print and still selling rather well. Albert Whitman seemed reluctant to go head-to-head with a more established author and a bigger publishing house. Even though the Albert Whitman editors had not read THANK YOU, SARAH!, they feared my book was too similar to Anderson’s to get a toehold in the marketplace.

Well, I can’t remember the last time I felt so frustrated. I worked so hard on this story. I wanted it to happen soooo badly.

So I went out and bought Anderson’s book; read it about a million times; made notes; and sent out a long, impassioned email to my editor detailing the many, many ways in which the two books were different. (And they were very different.) I then announced that Sarah Hale was awesome enough to deserve two books (the presumptuous subtext being that Sarah Hale was awesome enough to deserve my book).

I was professional and respectful, but I let it all hang out there. This was my desperate, Sarah Hail Mary Pass.

Long story short, my editor seemed impressed by the email and took my talking points into the next AW&Co. editorial meeting. Shortly thereafter, they gave me a contract.

I then danced a jig.

SH:  In an attempt to encourage your 3 yr. old son to read, you wrote him notes sealed in envelopes with his name and address and a hand drawn stamp.  Phyllis believes (strongly!) that she is stamp-worthy and this interview will not be allowed to continue until she gets one.  (She is very stubborn, so please humor her!)

MA:  Well, we can’t have that! Whatever Phyllis wants Phyllis gets.
Isn't this awesome???!!!  I have had it in my hot little hands for weeks
and have just been dying to show it off!  And now finally I can :)
Don't you love it?  Admit you love it!  Mike is such a talented artist!
SH:  Are you agented?  (Why or why not?)

MA:  I am not agented. The reason is because I haven’t yet found an agent interested in representing me. But I will keep plugging away. Such is the writer’s life, eh?

SH:  What kinds of things have you done for marketing/publicity? Which have worked well for you?  Which would you recommend the rest of us not attempt ever if we wish to retain our financial viability and/or sanity and/or self-respect?

MA:  When SARAH GIVES THANKS came out last year, I agreed to do anything and everything anyone asked of me. Some things worked a lot better than others.

The bookstore and library appearances were sparsely attended. I didn’t mind that much because I like hanging with bookstore managers and librarians, but those appearances didn’t do much for sales.

I prefer school appearances. I love to feed off of that marvelous gerbil-in-an-exercise-wheel energy that only a classroom full of kids can provide. And, if the event is put together by the PTO, the school will often pre-sell my book and pay me for my time. So it’s a win-win.

But I really attribute my book’s brisk sales to blog interviews. They got the word out in a big, big way. In other words, I’m very, very grateful for this opportunity, Susanna.
(Aw shucks, Mike, you're very, very welcome!)

SH:  You are the founder of H.A.C.K.S. (Humans Against Celebrity Kid Stories!)  Can you tell us a little about what led you to create this important organization and what you hope to accomplish with it?

MA:  I thank you for posing this important question. (You are just full of important questions today!)

The world needs HACKS, Susanna, because most celebrity-written books are across-the-board poopy. There are exceptions, of course; Jamie Lee Curtis, for one, keeps me from speaking in absolutes. In most other cases, however, poopy works just fine.

Unfortunately, unoriginal, didactic, awkwardly-rhymed nonsense sells very, very well once you put a celebrity’s name on the cover. A lot of book buyers see this name and think, “Ooh! I like this person!” And in the basket it goes.

This buying reflex creates a couple of problems, I think. First, it exposes kids to lousy, unimaginative writing. That, in my view, should be a crime—or at least a misdemeanor.

Second, bad writing by celebrity non-writers encourages non-celebrity non-writers to announce, “Hey, I can do that, too! I’m gonna write a book just like my favorite children’s book author, Madonna!” And so bad writing begets more bad writing.

My little movement is a way to say to the world, “Hey, let’s make this publishing thing a meritocracy. Let’s promote the good stuff written by unknowns. Let the kids out there see what a really good story looks like.”

I also created HACKS because I thought it would be good for a few laughs. So far so good!

(Those of you who are interested in learning more, or perhaps joining H.A.C.K.S, hop on over here:  http://mikeallegra.com/h-a-c-k-s-faqs/ and/or http://mikeallegra.com/join-h-a-c-k-s/)

SH:  Can you tell us anything about your current WIPs?  What's next for Mike Allegra?

MA:  I’m writing a YA book about zombies, which is about as far away from SARAH GIVES THANKS as one can possibly go. I have no idea if I’ll be able to sell such a book anywhere – the whole zombie thing has just about played itself out – but I’m having fun. And, as The Cat in the Hat once said, “It’s fun to have fun.”

And when I’m not writing, I’m sending out PB manuscripts with my fingers crossed.


And a few for fun:

Plotter or pantser? 

Both. A blogger – whose name I unfortunately forget – coined the term “planster.” That about sums it up for me. 

Laptop or desktop?

Desktop.

Mac or PC?

Mac.

Day or night worker?

I prefer afternoons, but whenever I can carve out time, I’ll write.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee – but not while I’m writing. When I write I stick to water.

I’ve tried drinking hard cider while writing and the results were interesting. Not good, but interesting.

Snack or not?

Not. I can’t write with a snack nearby. It’s too distracting.

Salty or sweet?

Sweet. Donuts, white chocolate, and ice cream are preferred.

Quiet or music?

Quiet.

Cat or dog?

Goat.

Currently reading?


Travels with Charley. And, once again, I am reminded why Steinbeck is my favorite author.

Golly, that was fun!  Isn't Mike fun?  I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did!  Thank you so much, Mike, for joining us here today!

If y'all have any questions for Mike, I'm pretty sure he can be prevailed upon to answer them in the comments so fire away! :)

Those of you who don't already know Mike can find him on the web in the following places:


And now, as promised, we have a copy of SARAH GIVES THANKS to give away!  All you have to do is leave us a comment by Wednesday or so and we will randomly select a winner.  What we'd really like to hear is your most entertaining Thanksgiving story.  But if that's too much work on a Monday morning, you can just tell us something you're thankful for.

I will get the ball rolling by saying that when I was 6 we got 14 inches of snow on Thanksgiving which was pretty much fun.  Some kids might have built a snowman, or made snow angels.  But not us.  What better way to enjoy the gift of snow, we said to each other, than to go tobogganing down our very steep driveway?  It might have been okay but for a small error in judgment... We forgot to account for the sharp curve...  Alas, our combined weight wasn't enough to turn the toboggan so we shot off the driveway, over a stone wall, through a dormant (but still prickly) blackberry bush and straight into a very sturdy oak tree.  There was only a little blood (all of it mine) and no trips to the Emergency Room were required so it was all good.  But we were not fast learners, so after dinner we tried it again... :)  As for what I'm thankful for, I'm thankful that all of you come to visit and read and comment and put up with my ridiculous stories about crashing toboggans and my addiction to chocolate :)

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone! :)

Reactions:

118 comments:

  1. What a wonderful interview! That drawing is amazeballs and I love that you wrote a letter defining the differences. That's just what Sarah would have done. Hail Mary pass is awesome too.

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  2. Thanks for the great interview Susanna and Mike! Lately, I've been really grateful for my five children who are growing up entirely too fast. My oldest just turned 12 and my youngest has been out of diapers for several months now:)

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  3. Great interview! It's always nice to hear how people got started. And thanks, Mike for bringing more awareness about Sarah Hale- a remarkable woman! Your book looks wonderful!

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  4. Loved the interview. It gave me some ideas, and also some encouragement. I'm thankful for my two sons, and my husband. They are my world.

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  5. Great interview, Susanna & Mike! I enjoyed reading about your research process! My only T'giving story is that my daughter was born 4 wks early during the week of Thanksgiving, and so for the first time, I missed the regular meal with my family. But that was a wonderful excuse to be thankful for! (11 yrs ago)

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  6. What a LIVELY interview, Susanna! I look forward to reading Mike's intriguing SARAH GIVES THANKS...how cool that she wrote Mary had a little lamb. I love trivia!

    T-Day story: I don't enjoy cooking so a few years ago my husband and I started a new tradition: we call it our Runaway T-Day. Most years I make turkey sandwiches (duh!) and we drive a few hours to where CA. meets NV. and have a picnic in the sagebrush desert. So peaceful. He dvrs the football games so when we get home he enjoys that and I read. Win-win!

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  7. I really enjoyed this interview. It's wonderful to see how an opportunity was pounced upon, fought for and won. Great work to Mike!! And love that stamp of Phyllis

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  8. I loved the interview Susanna and Mike !!!

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  9. Thanks for the interview. Mike, I wonder if you ever considered trying to illustrate Sarah yourself, or are your artistic pursuits just for family and friends?
    I am thankful for this amazing community of writers who is willing to share their triumphs, foibles, and secrets.
    Embarrassing? In the aftermath of the first Thanksgiving with my new in-laws, we all sat around in a foodie stupor. My new brother-in-law pushed back from the table, sleepy-eyed, and announced that turkey is such a great aphrodisiac. To break the embarrassing silence, I timidly suggested perhaps he meant "anesthetic"? Let's just say, we've never let him forget that moment.

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  10. Gotta love any interview which involves a Monty Python question and answer!

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  11. Super cool interview. Love Mike's response to the question--do you have a Thanksgiving story? LOL. Plus, good to know that hard cider and writing is not for everyone. :)

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  12. Super fun interview, Susanna and Mike!

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  13. The Cat in the Hat is right . . . having FUN is FUN. And I had FUN reading this interview.

    Rather than clogging up your comment thread with my entertaining Thanksgiving story about how NOT to entertain, here's the link:

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/how-not-to-throw-a-dinner-party/

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  14. Love how you seized the moment and ran with it! Love your honesty and gumption. Best interview I've read in a while!

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  15. Thanks, Joanna! (And, by the way, I am a big fan of the term "awesome sauce." So thanks for that, too!)

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  16. Great interview! So fun to read. And it was interesting to hear how Sarah Gives Thanks came to be. Persistence pays! Thanks, Mike and Susanna! I'm thankful for all my writer friends and this super fun blog. :-)

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  17. Wow. Thanks, Heather! (There's just too much competition out there to not have gumption, I think.)

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  18. Woo. That, Robin, was one hilarious story.

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  19. And hard cider and I get along so well otherwise!

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  20. Thanks for the kind words, Joanne! Illustrating SARAH never crossed my mind for one instant, actually. I consider myself to be a glorified doodler. David Garner is the real deal; he puts my feeble doodles to shame.

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  21. A wonderful thing to be thinkful for!
    And Sarah Hale had five children, too!

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  22. Thank you, Iza. Sarah Hale is remarkable. I am just so blessed and grateful to be able to promote her. She sure deserves it.

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  23. I'm so glad you found the post encouraging, Amanda! Thank you for saying so.

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  24. I think you came up with the best possible reason to miss a turkey dinner.

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  25. Thanks, Linda!

    And if I may say so, Runaway T-Day sounds like a marvelous way to celebrate the holiday. A lot of people see the hubbub surrounding the Thanksgiving meal as a source of aggravation and stress. That is the opposite of what Sarah Hale intended.
    You guys have your priorities in line!

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  26. I'm just glad the refernce was from "Holy Grail" as that is the MP only movie I know reasonably well!

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  27. I gues I did channel Sarah in that moment, didn't I?
    Cool.

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  28. Loved this interview, Mike and Susanna! Mike, your perseverance is impressive....way to go!!! Alas, I have no turkey catastrophe to share...but I will certainly use more caution on Thanksgiving Days from now on!

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  29. Thanks for sharing how you advocated for your own book. It sounds like you persuasive arguing is another skill I should hone :)

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  30. What a fun interview! Congrats on your book, Mike. The fact that you published without an agent is awesome! I am thankful for the writing community who give inspiration and support to all!

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  31. Thanksgiving entertainment: So, my stepfather was a serious man with high expectations at the dinner table. The dining table and chair set that was his and my mother's and used for special occasions only -- made serious a bit of challenge. The first Thanksgiving we all shared at this table, Al (stepdad) of course was to sit at the head of the table. Children, spouses, grandchildren, etc all had their own designated spaces around the table. We all took our seats and bowed our heads for the prayer that All would lead. As he blessed the meal he shifted in his seat. This movement resulted in a whoopee cushion like noise. We all kept our heads down, for eye contact was sure to foil our necessary silence. Red-faced we all slowly looked up and began to pass the food. More movement in his chair and more whoopee cushion noises. More bowed heads then giggles erupted. As it turned out, both he and my mom knew of the noisiness of this chair. We all laughed and laughed and now each season of a big family dinner we all sit with expectation and trepidation as the grandchildren will have strategically placed 'the chair' at someone's place setting -- usually the unsuspecting guest. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for a great interview.

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  32. Marcie Rinka WesselsNovember 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Do your research and know your market. Two great take-aways from Mike and Susanana's interview. I also admire your can-do attitude, Mike.

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  33. My dad is the photographer in our story. He likes to take a picture of the table laden with steaming turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, while the whole smiling family is gathered around ("Just smile and let's get this over with"). Of course, he also likes to be in the picture. So one year he decided that the perfect place to set up his camera would be to attach it to the open cupboard door. It was just far enough away to get the whole family--and the turkey, of course--in the picture. My mom hates this process. She's just spent the last day and a half cooking, has just put the finishing touches on the meal, AND miraculously has finessed every dish to be done perfectly and at the exact same time! Gordon Ramsay would be proud. So, needless to say, she is not very patient with this process that my Dad goes through EVERY YEAR. (The cupboard door is new this time, but not the lengthy set-up.) So after some sighing on her part and some sweating on his, he has the camera attached firmly to the open cupboard door and is ready to push the button and skedaddle back to his chair. He pushes the button, he expertly maneuvers around the table just missing the leg of the folding chair that sticks out just far enough that EVERYONE trips over it, he squeezes in between my mom and my sister and reminds us one more time to smile, and...the cupboard door slowly closes, there's a click, and we get a beautiful (though out of focus) shot of the inside of the kitchen cupboard. This, and the resulting laughter (tears, everyone, tears!) has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I won't be with my family this holiday season, but I am thankful for this and many other memories of Thanksgivings spent together.

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  34. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Catherine! I LOVE that stamp of Phyllis - I've been dying to show it to everyone ever since he sent it to me!



























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    What a wonderful interview! That drawing is amazeballs and I love that you wrote a letter defining the differences. That's just what Sarah would have done. Hail Mary pass is awesome too. 7:16 a.m., Monday Nov. 11










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  35. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Kirsti, and your children are a wonderful thing to be thankful for. We have 5 also (although 2 of them are step-kids for me so I missed the beginning) and mine range now from 35 down to 16 and I have 2 granddaughters! How time flies!

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  36. I'm gad you enjoyed meeting Mike, Iza! And the book IS wonderful - I have read it!

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  37. I'm so glad if you found the interview inspiring and encouraging, Amanda! And what a wonderful thing to be thankful for :)

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  38. Aw! That's a lovely reason to miss Thanksgiving dinner :)

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  39. That sounds like a truly awesome tradition, Linda! Lovely and peaceful! And I love that it has a name :)

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  40. I agree, Angela! It's great when gumption wins out! And Phyllis loves you for loving her stamp! :)

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  41. Hahaha! Great story, Joanne! Thanks for sharing :) You made me laugh :)

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  42. I'm glad you liked it, Juliana! Now then, WHAT is your favorite color?!

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  43. I know, Coleen! I love that too! I would never have had the guts to say I had a ms when I didn't!

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  44. So glad you enjoyed it, Robin! :)





























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  45. Oh, my! You've piqued my curiosity now, Nancy! I can't wait to go read that link!


























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  46. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Heather! It's not every day you get to interview someone as entertaining as Mike! :)

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  47. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Penny :) And I wouldn't be opposed to a made-up Thanksgiving story if it was entertaining... :)

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  48. Thanks, Joanna, I'm glad you enjoyed it - it's not every day that one gets rated awesomesauce!

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  49. Thanks, Wendi! So glad it you enjoyed it! :)




























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  50. It's so true! That's why Edison or Einstein or whoever it was says that success is 99% perspiration! I think in Mike's case, there might have been a little extra :)

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  51. I know, Laura. I totally love that he stood up for himself and won out! Very inspirational!

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  52. Glad you enjoyed it, Romelle! And I agree - we are all so lucky to belong to this wonderful community!

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  53. Hahaha! That is a VERY entertaining Thanksgiving story, Teresa! I think it needs to go in a book somewhere! Thanks so much for sharing :)

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  54. I know, Marcie - wasn't he so brave to say he had a story when he didn't? And look how it all worked out! A lesson for all of us to believe in ourselves I think :)

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  55. Oh, that is so funny, Debbie! I can totally picture the whole situation! It sounds like something out of a sitcom! I'm sorry you won't get to be with your family this year, but what a lot of lovely memories you must have!

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  56. I totally forgot to ooh and ah over Phyllis's stamp. I love how her scarf and hat blow out of the frame. Yay for Phyllis and for Mike and for Susanna! This is a wonderful post on so many levels -- inspiring writerly advice, illustrations, WAFFLES, and humor -- what a great way to start the week. Thanks!

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  57. I have no story, but I AM thankful for Susanna's community of writers (PPBF/and all the fun contests), and others I have met online, such as Tara Lazar (PiBoIdMo) and Julie Hedlund's group (12x12). Such a caring, unselfish group who's goal is to spur one another on in their pursuit of writing.
    And Mike. . .perfect timing. I found your post informative and helpful, since I'm in a non-fiction writing mode myself. What an adventure to uncover little-known stories of heroic people. Thanks!

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  58. We are grateful too! And I like H.A.C.K.S.! It's very true what you say that lousy celeb books are crowding out the good stories. It's a shame that people worship celebrities so much...

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  59. HAHA! great story!

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  60. What a great interview! I especially like the goat comment as my friend is currently dealing with a neighbor whose pet goat keeps coming into his yard! I am very thankful for the opportunity to stay home with my three beautiful babies and to write.

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  61. Blue, no red, no... aaarrrgghhh!

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  62. It was a favorite of my boys when they were preteens.... must have watched it a thousand times! When we all get together, we frequently quote our favorite lines. I'd better get on netflix and brush up before the holidays! :)

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  63. Fabulous thing to be thankful for, Kirsten! I feel the same way at my house, although my babies aren't such babies anymore! And I would like to hear more about that goat! :)

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  64. I am thankful for our writing community too, Jarm - so many wonderful people! And I'm glad the interview was such good timing for you. I hope your outcome will be as good as Mike's!

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  65. Mike Allegra writerNovember 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Cool. Don't forget to join the HACKS cause!

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  66. Phyllis forgives you for not mentioning her the first time and loves you anyway because you made a special effort to come back and say how wonderful her stamp is :)

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  67. Great interview with Mike! His book looks terrific. Wishing him lots of luck with his future writing projects. And now I want waffles!! I like homemade chocolate chip waffles with blueberries and strawberries, yum!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  68. Yum! That sounds GOOD! I think it's lunch time :)

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  69. Great interview, Susanna and Mike! I'm grateful for this writing community that always seems to share uninhibited stories about what writing and publishing is really like. It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger, and I'm not alone when I'm typing on my computer.

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  70. It is a wonderful community, Pam, and I totally agree that it's very nice not to feel so alone at your computer, especially when the writing isn't going as well as you'd like! :)

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  71. ha ha ha!.... too funny.

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  72. Great interview!
    Well, you'll never believe this, but it's completely true. There was this one Thanksgiving that I ate so much turkey, stuffing and pie that I fell asleep right on the couch!! OMG!! Actually that happened more than once. And with that I can say nothing interesting has ever happened to me on Thanksgiving. In fact, I may set out to make something crazy happen this year. It may be the year to make my Aunt Hellie's popcorn stuffing. Apparently you know the bird is done when you hear an explosion in your oven. :)

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  73. Great interview Susanna and Mike. Goats and Steinbeck...you're a man after my own heart.

    Turkey story- In 2008 my hubby and I drove from our home in Florida
    to attend his family's Thanksgiving reunion in Central
    Texas. Our Anniversary is the 24th, so it always lands right
    around the holiday, which is pretty cool in itself. The day before
    Thanksgiving, on our anniversary, we went driving, found a house in the country, shook on it, and spent an exciting time with family. No one could believe that we decided to pick up stakes and make such a big move! We drove home, packed up our belongings and critters, and pulled into the driveway of our Texas home the week before Christmas. His aunt had already decorated the house -- tree and all! :0)

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  74. Aw! That's a wonderful story, Donna! How sweet that you found your house on your anniversary and that now you live closer to family - such a nice family that they decorated your house for Christmas for you :)

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  75. Thanks so much, Mike, for sharing your 'path to publication' with us! It was tremendously encouraging. When we don't hear from an agent or editor right away, we begin to doubt ourselves. We need to just keep on working, creating, revising, submitting. And connecting...I believe, as you point out, making connections can be a key ingredient in this recipe for success.:)

    Congratulations on Sarah Give Thanks...and best of luck with your future projects!

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  76. Oh dear, forgot the turkey story! The day after we moved to our new home in Amherst, NH...we looked out the window and saw 17 turkeys, strutting and pecking in the backyard...great inspiration for my next pb, I think! We have a bunch of forest behind our house...who knows what else is lurking there? :)

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  77. Maybe a bear. Or a pack of coyotes. Or a bobcat. That's the kind of wildlife we have in our backyard :)

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  78. There are definitely deer...they've strolled out on the lawn for a visit already.:)

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  79. Glad you enjoyed what Mike had to say, Darshana! And so many people have said how thankful they are for the kid lit community - I think that's why it's such a nice one - everyone appreciates it so much! :)

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  80. Loved it. Very cool tips, very fun questions and equally fun answers.

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  81. So glad you enjoyed it, J. Thanks for stopping by!

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  82. I wish I had it! I think this happened pre-digital which means my dad put it in a box of photos or it might even be a slide! Here is my re-creation of what it might have looked like. It's actually more microwave-next-to-the-cupboard than inside-the-cupboard-itself, but you get the idea.

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  83. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikNovember 11, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Hmm I don't have any funny Thanksgiving stories but I do have a turkey one. I was attacked by a turkey at a petting zoo. I got some chicken feed out of a machine to feed the chickens. The turkey heard the machine go and ran across the petting zoo straight at me.. I ran but didn't think to drop the food. The turkey chased me down and I climbed over a little fence to get away form it... right into a pen full of hungry goats. It didn't end well...I was only 5 at the time. The turkey was as big as me. I have a little fear of turkeys and goats now.

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  84. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikNovember 11, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    But "Mr. Peabody's Apples" was GREAT and written by Madonna! It talks about spreading rumors! :)

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  85. Now I am even more impressed! You are the king of TENACITY...which is one of the most important character strengths a submitting writer/illustrator can have.:) Thanks again, Mike...you give us hope!

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  86. That sounds seriously scary! But could also be a really funny PB!

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  87. Goat?? Zombies?? Yikes! I'm a little afraid of you, Mike...

    I am thankful for Mom. She found me at the rescue and adopted me and brought me home and took me to obedience school and taught me to be a good girl and had me certified as a therapy dog and buys me toys and treats and cuddles with me and helps me write my bloggy. Mom is thankful for me, too!

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

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  88. A beautiful Thanksgiving family photo :)

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  89. Hahaha! I'm sorry, Erik! I know it's not really funny - I'm sure it was quite traumatic for 5 yr. old you! But the image of you running away from a herd of hungry turkeys is funny :)

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  90. Seriously?! I haven't read that one... but MIKE... you better check this out!

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  91. You are lucky to have each other :)




























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  92. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikNovember 11, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Good Point! :D

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  93. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikNovember 11, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Heh heh I guess it is kind of funny thinking about it almost 7 years later ;) I'm going to have turkey nightmares tonight...

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  94. You're older and wiser now... you can chase the turkeys :)

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  95. Nope. Can't do it. I'm never THAT naughty.

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  96. Wonderful interview. I enjoyed every word. I am thankful for my family and the time they help me find for reading and writing.

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  97. Well, that was a fun interview, but I'm really cracking up over all these comments! My Thanksgiving memories are all about long car rides and drooling under the table waiting for something to drop close by. Thanksgiving is all about heavenly smells.

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  98. OK, so maybe it wasn't a turkey like the one that practically mauled Erik, and, yeah, so...all right...it wasn't even Thanksgiving, BUT---on a cool, autumn day in November, my boyfriend and I got the bright idea to bring a relatively stale loaf of bread to Van Saun Park to feed a gaggle of what we KNEW had to be very hungry geese. Yes, we felt sorry for them. Need I say more? Rather than throwing the small pieces Mark started out with, he flung the whole loaf as about 20 of them ran us back to my car! Man, were they ravenous! No bread for YOU!


    And I was just thinking, Mike---maybe a good way to spend THIS Thanksgiving would be we meet at Sesame Place to climb the nets. At least there would be no lines! ;)


    So, to keep in line with the theme here, I would give MANY Thanks, right along with Sarah, if I actually won this book, but I would be even MORE thankful---and just "full" period---if you'd dish out a serving of that belgian waffle with chocolate ice cream :D


    "Donna Gives Thanks" for the great interview, Mike and Suzanna :D


    P.S. H.A.C.K.S. is pretty clever ;)

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  99. Oh, and sorry for misspelling your name, Susanna! My daughter-in-law's name is Suzanne, soooo... : /

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  100. I'm so glad you liked it, Rosi :) And that's a wonderful thing to be thankful for! :)

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  101. It certainly does smell good, Rhythm - I'm sure especially so to someone with your sense of smell! :)



























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  102. That creates QUITE a picture Donna! I can just imagine you and your boyfriend running from a flock of aggressive geese - you've got to watch it with them! :) Thanks for coming over, and thanks for sharing your story!


























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  103. No worries :) You'd be amazed what I get called :)



























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  104. WoW, Mike, I hadn't heard the second half of the story about your road to publishing. You are tenacious!


    And I love the stamp!


    Susanna, Your toboggan story rocks! I think I remember that Thanksgiving and the longgggggg hill I went down on a plastic sled that didn't protect my bum from a jagged rock. Sliced through the sled, my pants and my skin. But my rear end was so cold, it didn't hurt that much. It was only when the kids I was with started yelling that my butt was bleeding that I noticed a sort of dull throbbing. Didn't require stitches, though. Ah, fond memories....

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  105. The year I wanted a hamburger instead of turkey. I believe the next year, I quit eating red meat. Love Sarah Gives Thanks!

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  106. Oh fun! I haven't read the 140 comments but I'll save the page on my laptop and divide them up for fun reading before turkey day.

    I've read SARAH, GIVES THANKS and enjoyed it, good job in making a non-fiction a fun read. Would I expect less from a guy who loves waffles as much as I do.

    My story - Thanksgiving 2003

    I bought an organic turkey too many weeks in advance and it thawed for way too long. My husband and I both stood there looking into the huge gut hole with our noses wrinkled. "Hum, I'm not sure about this," I remarked. In the oven it went.

    We went out shopping for a few last minute items. When we got home the house smelled like dead carcass, something similar to a turkey morgue. "Ok, this isn't working," he said, "back to the store."

    After a few phone calls we found an OPEN store with a thawed out bird. It was smaller than what we needed but at least it gave up it's pulse not too long before we got there.

    We cooked, we ate, nothing left (uplifting news to me was we had a small frozen turkey in the basement freezer - more on that later), I cleaned up, they slept. This was soon to be the last thanksgiving I cooked. Seeing as though we have five grown daughters it seemed fitting to pass the baton.

    After the out-of-town company left and I recovered from the week of preparations, I went to the basement freezer only to find that my dear husband threw out the frozen turkey thinking it was meat and bones trash. You see we lived in the country where we had to go to the dump with trash and out 95 pound Pyrenees loved leftovers so to protect ourselves from vet bills and her tummy we harbored the meat trash in the freezer.
    I am happy to announce we now go to our daughters for holiday dinners.

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  107. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your Thanksgiving story, Zeeb :)

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  108. Hahaha! Well, Jill, apparently we are both gluttons for punishment when it comes to Thanksgiving snow :)

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  109. Great questions, Susanna! I love the Phyllis stamp. Mike has quite a talent, as a writer & an artist. As for his pet preference, anytime I see, hear or read something about goats, I think of him! I realize I'm too late for the draw, but wanted to say a few words anyway. Whoever wins Sarah Gives Thanks is a very lucky person! :)

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  110. Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, Susan! I really appreciate it and I know Mike does too. He is very talented, and SARAH is a great book! Maybe I'll wrangle another giveaway copy out of him as a prize for the Holiday Writing Contest in a couple weeks - enter and you might win :)



























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  111. I'm a week late, having just found this interview. I've read several of Mike's interviews, but you did a good job, asking new questions that gave me more insight into Mike's (and other's children book author's) writing life. I though this advice about research was excellent. And his not-easy path to publishing Sarah gives us all incentive to keep on keeping on. Thank you!

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  112. Thanks so much for coming over to read and comment, Pam! I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. Mike's a great guy, and SARAH GIVES THANKS is a wonderful book!



























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