I'd like to thank Sherry Londe for taking the time to interview me and featuring G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet in The Beachcomber (Destin, FL).  To see her article, please click here.
The Next Big Thing is a global blog tour, started in Australia, to showcase authors and illustrators and their current work. I was tagged by Alison Davis Lyne, the wonderful illustrator of G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet.

After I post answers to the Q & A, I will pass the blog on to Carrie Clickard, Nancy Raines Day, and Catherine L. Osornio who will pick up the tour on July 4. 
1) What is the working title of your next book? 
My current book is
G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet.  It released September 2012.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?  As a
lifelong Southerner, I had been thinking about writing something
southern, possibly something along the lines of an article for Southern Living or Southern Lady magazines. While reviewing some ABC books for a writing course I was taking, the idea just hit me: Why isn't there an ABC book about the South?

3) In what genre does your book fall?  Nonfiction Picture Book

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?   Since my book is an ABC concept book, it would be difficult to make a movie about it.  However, with all the Southern delights sprinkled throughout the book - such as biscuits, golden fried hushpuppies, upside-down cake, red velvet cake, boiled peanuts, jams, jellies, pecan candies, and grits - I think there would be plenty of Southern recipes for a food show!

For the sake of answering the question - should there ever be a movie rendition of the book, I think Reese Witherspoon (a native Southerner who grew up in Nashville) would be an excellent choice for actress based on her role in Sweet Home Alabama. 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet highlights the unique grace, lifestyle, foods, and overall charm of the South - one letter at a time. 
Notice how illustrator, Alison Lyne, incorporated Southern history (Robert E. Lee), wildlife (love bugs), and our favorite drink (sweet tea with lemons) into one scene for "L."
6) Who is publishing your book?  Pelican Publishing Company

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?   I began writing the book by simply creating a chart.  I listed all the letters, A to Z, and then started listing southern items that began with each letter.  This took about two weeks.  Next, I wrote a rhyme for each letter using as many items from the list that would fit into a 4-line stanza. Creating the rhymes took another two weeks.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  Sleeping Bear Press published a set of Discover America State by State Alphabet books about 10 years ago.  Titles include M is for Magnolia: A Mississippi Alphabet, P is for Pelican: A Louisiana Alphabet, Y is for Yellow Hammer:  An Alabama Alphabet, P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet, etc. 

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I have four sons, ranging from 10 years old down to 3 years old - Lee, Chase, Rhett, and Brooks.  As I wrote in the dedication inscription inside the book, the boys have allowed me to recapture my childhood memories of growing up in the South.  I was the oldest of 4 children and we spent a lot of time outside in the summertime in rural North Florida, especially when my mother worked in our garden. 

The event that I drew on to come up with the title, G is for Grits, stemmed from a family vacation to Canada when I was in high school.  My sister, 6 1/2 years younger than me, asked for grits and eggs at a restaurant in Canada.  They politely told her that they didn't have grits, but they served hash browns if she would like that instead. All true Southerners know that hash browns are NOT equal to a warm bowl of grits smothered with butter and or/cheese!

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  When I first saw the illustrations that went along with the text, I was immediately impressed with how Alison had worked very diverse items listed in the stanza into a scene for each page.  Of course, I had ideas and pictures in my mind as I wrote the text.  It was interesting to see how she interpreted each stanza similarly or differently than I pictured in my mind.  I often think it was easier for me to write the text than to come up with a scene incorporating all the items I had listed (if I could even draw, that is).   As you read the stanzas, see how you would have created the scene if you had been responsible for doing so. 

As an example, the B page is shown below.  The "B" text is:

B is for boiled peanuts,
biscuits, and black-eyed peas,
chasing butterflies in summertime,
and running from bumblebees!

See how Alison incorporated all these items AND added in a stick of Butter for the Biscuits!
Thank you for taking the time to help me celebrate my "Next Big Thing." Now onto the next candidates on the blog tour who will post on July 4th. I'll update with direct links then!

Carrie Clickard
Nancy Raines Day
Catherine L. Osornio
Capstone Press's new Graphic Science and Engineering in Action STEM series is featured on this week's STEM Friday blog.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Max Axiom is the main character in the four books in this series:

- Engineering an Awesome Recycling Center with Max Axiom, Super Scientist
- Engineering a Totally Rad Skateboard with Max Axiom, Super Scientist
- The Amazing Work of Scientists with Max Axiom, Super Scientist
- The Incredible Work of Engineers with Max Axiom, Super Scientist

Max Axiom is a science superhero, acquiring his powers through a freak accident - being struck by a megacharged lightning bolt during a wilderness hike.  In my book in this series, Engineering an Awesome Recycling Center with Max Axiom, Super Scientist, Max uses the engineering process to design and build an awesome recycling center.  Max solves the City's garbage problem, reducing the pressure on its bulging landfill. 

I was honored to be invited to participate in the University of Florida Harn Museum of Art's inaugural Written Inspiration: A Children's Book Signing Event on November 4, 2012.  Over 20 Florida authors and illustrators gathered at the fundraising event benefiting the UF Harn Museum. Each author or illustrator provided a hands-on activity which helped children connect to the author's book. 

I signed G is for Grits:  A Southern Alphabet.  Since mine is an ABC book, we made alligators from the letter A.

My four boys attended and really enjoyed viewing the various booths and making the different arts and crafts activities offered by each author.

Our lemons are just getting ripe enough to pick.  (We only have a couple lemon trees as we live in North Florida and they are difficult to keep alive during our few cold snaps.)  As I was digging through my recipe box, hunting for my son's favorite lemon pie recipe, it crossed my mind that I had used "Lemons" in the "L" verse of my new children's ABC book - G is for Grits:  A Southern Alphabet.  As I flip back through the book, I realize that I actually used several foods to define the South.  I guess that is because (and let's face it)  much of our Southern culture revolves around  food.  Family gatherings revolve around food.  Church gatherings revolve around food.  Even our Saturday football gatherings revolve around food - as much as the football.  Food is what makes Southern Culture so "Southern."  Fried catfish, hushpuppies, cheese grits, chicken-n-dumplin's, boiled peanuts, fried okra, pecan pralines or divinity, and red velvet cake - these are a few of the foods that make the South proud. 

As Southern Hospitality would have it, we'll all need to prepare a favorite dish to take somewhere soon. In honor of the release of G is for Grits:  A Southern Alphabet, I'd love to hear some of your favorite recipes.  Please comment below.    I'll start it off with our favorite lemon pie recipe:

Lemon Pie
Large graham cracker pie crust
1/2 block cream cheese (softened)
1 cup cool whip (defrosted)
2 cans condensed milk (i.e. Eagle Brand)
Juice from 3 squeezed lemons (about 1/2 cup)
*Cream softened cream cheese.  Blend in cool whip.  Add milk and mix till creamy.
Stir in lemon juice.  Pour into pie crust and chill overnight.  Y'all enjoy!  
(Note:  I also like to pour pie into the miniature, individual-size graham pie crusts for a special treat.)

I'm pleased to announce that G is for Grits: A Southern Alphabet is one of the 23 books selected for The University of Florida Harn Museum of Art's Written Inspiration: A Children's Book Signing Event.  The event will take place Sunday afternoon, November 4, 2012 from 1:00 till 5:00 (Eastern).  The authors will prepare a small craft for children to make related to their books.  If you are coming to Gainesville for Saturday's Gators vs. Missouri game, we'd love to see you at the Harn Museum on Sunday afternoon.    
Schools across the nation are getting ready for Read Across America.  The week will be filled with various activities:  dress-up days, games, and bulletin board and/or classroom door decorating contests - all aimed at motivating students to read.  The national day to celebrate reading is March 2 - Dr. Seuss's birthday.  I will be dressing three of my kids as Dr. Seuss characters that day.  They are even having green eggs and ham for lunch. 

I helped one of my children's schools prepare for Read Across America by working on the BoxTops for Education bulletin board.  (I am a BoxTops coordinator for our school.) 
As a writer, I feel compelled to support education.  One easy way to do this is by saving BoxTops for Education and Labels for Education (also called Campbell's soup labels) for your local schools.  Schools get $0.10 for each BoxTop turned in, and they really add up.  Our PTO spent about $700 of BoxTops money the past couple years to buy a book for each student at Christmas.   Labels for Education can be redeemed by schools for athletic, academic, or art merchandise.  This is helpful in a time when budgets are tight and costs are rising.  Support your school.  Clip the labels!  Most schools have a collection container in their foyer or  office.  If you don't have a school to support, you can find local participating schools by entering your zip code on the Box Tops or Labels for Education sites. 
I'm pleased to announce that Anastasia Suen was kind enough to feature The Water Cycle as STEM Friday Chapter Book of the Day.   STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
I received my author's copies of The Water Cycle.  I'm very happy with the visual presentation of the materials, layout, photos, and figures. 

    About Nikki

    Nikki is an engineer, author, wife, and mother of four young boys.