Author Highlight: Cat Michaels

Writing for children can be a lot of fun. Creating the perfect story to truly get them engaged and interacting with the story is a gift. Please help me welcome author Cat Michaels who shares her story with us and offering her wonderful book as a giveaway.


Your book is about a family having fun by the beach. Your words flow so easy and I felt as though I were right there. Tell us about your book and illustrations.

Thanks! You know the adage about writing what you know? Well, the ocean is an old friend -- I grew up with salt water in my veins, living on the Connecticut coast and spending every moment I could at the beach. Today, I live near North Carolina’s coast, and my family has enjoyed beach reunions there for more than 25 years. Fuzzy is based on experiences with the eight young cousins who grew up on those trips (some of whom are now grown up and taking children of their own!). In fact, the real-life Jenna, who graduates high school this spring, even packed her well-worn Fuzzy on last year’s stay in the cozy yellow cottage.

Irene Jahns is a North Carolinian who also loves the beach, plus she’s an amazing artist. We’re informal in the way we work together. She looks over my rough drafts, finds inspirations for her drawings, and creates the most incredible watercolors in the blink of an eye. She tells me to pick a few pictures for the book, but they’re all so beautiful, I wind up using all of them. Then graphic designer Kayte Price does her magic in making text and pictures flow together. My editor husband also gets in the act by lending his practiced eye to make sure we produce professional-grade books.

How long did it take you to get this idea to where it is now?

I originally wrote Fuzzy as a birthday gift for niece Jenna, who was in kindergarten at the time. After deciding to write full time in 2013, I published Fuzzy, the second of my Sweet T Tales, in the spring of 2014. So after sitting for about a decade, Fuzzy was polished and published in four months as the book you see today. Its You-Decide ending was always part of the plot. I wanted readers to think through options and consequences when finding their story resolution. It’s great fun seeing the different approaches to solving the dilemma!

What will kids love most about your book?

Irene’s watercolors will draw them in; the characters and their beachy experiences will appeal, too. While there’s enough humor and plot twists to keep young readers turning the page, my stories have a deeper layer. (Shhhh, don’t tell the children!) My stories are about loss, growing up, and moving on that gently nudge young minds to look at the world in new ways. For instance, in Finding Fuzzy, kids can relate to Jenna’s special friend that goes everywhere with her…and what happens when that BFF is lost. 

How do you promote kids and reading?

My career as an educator and writing coach has been a 1-to-1 journey of helping people push pass cognitive barriers to reading. Reading is so difficult for this population. Most want to pick up a book about as much as they want to walk over hot coals with bare feet! I provided encouragement and individualized learning strategies and tools that made it easier for students with learning disabilities to read and succeed.

Tell us about your website.

The site offers insights on my books, free chapter downloads, and tips about books and reading. Irene’s art is sprinkled throughout to make it visually appealing. I want to add more tabs …. like a place for showing people reading my books and highlighting You-Decide endings children create and share with me. A tab for teachers and parents with tips about reading and books is in the works, too.

Will you be doing any book tours?

I have a blog tour coming up in May and will use Skype to offer virtual classroom visits.

What are your thoughts on the new technology for reading a book?

To borrow loosely from “Oliver,” “More, please!” Some people will always prefer the feel of holding a book in their hands. But others want new ways and embrace e-readers and mobile devices. Plus, traditionally printed, text-based books aren’t accessible for those with visual impairments and reading disabilities. The more technologies to deliver diverse ways to encourage reading, the better!

What advice do you have for parents on getting their kids reading?
  • Kids learn by example, so first and foremost, children need to see adults reading and enjoying books.
  • Make the local library and the children’s activities it offers a special place to visit together. Librarians are wonderful resources for finding books that appeal to a child’s interests.
  • Pair reading with enjoyable tasks --- like reading about a zoo and then visiting one.
  • Getting kids hooked on books is more challenging when youngsters have reading disabilities. You don’t want to force-feed reading upon them, but rather nurture it along. And that’s a painful road because often just the thought of reading is painful for these children.

    I look for back-door ways to engage this group. For instance, an older student I worked with hated reading until she watched the “Hunger Games” and was motivated to read the book after seeing the film. One mom hooked her hockey-playing sons by playing an audio recording of “The Book Thief” in the car while driving to and from school and games. There’s a variety of free audio services, such as public libraries and the LibreVoix recordings of books in the public domain, for children who are dyslexic or visually impaired.

What will parents and teachers love most about your book?



They’ll appreciate You-Decide for its discussion and learning value. One grandparent tells me she wants to use Fuzzy to open dialogue with her first-grader about leaving the child’s Fuzzy at home more often.

We added two tip sheets at the end of Finding Fuzzy to help children determine the story’s conclusion. Also, if children want to practice their ending or need more space, adults can download free 8x11 You-Decide pages from my website. I hope adult family members and teachers will let me know how You-Decide works with their readers and share story endings to post on my website, too.

What's your next project?

Now in the works…

  • Offering my books digitally across different e-reading platforms and eventually creating interactive reading apps and books.
  • Fleshing out ideas for a third book in the Sweet T tales about middle sister Kristen….maybe something about middle-child magic!
  • Noodling over a short story for adults that incorporates my love of choral singing in a Christmas-themed book about a disparate quartet of choir members who come together just once a year for their community’s premiere holiday concert.    
Thanks Cat so much for stopping by and sharing your story and tips for parents and teachers! Cat has donated a book for a giveaway. For a chance to win please be sure to stop by Cat's website and social media sites (see links below). Don't forget to leave your name and email in the comment section. Also, please visit The Neophyte Writer for more about Cat and her writing experience. Check out my review of Finding Fuzzy!



Title: Finding Fuzzy
Author: Cat Michaels
Illustrations: Irene A. Jahns
Publisher: Cat Michaels
ISBN: 9780615990026


Review:

Going to the beach can be very exciting for a young kid and their family. And don't forget, kids always like to take some of their favorite things. Jenna remembered to take her back pack and her favorite blue bunny named Fuzzy. Once on the beach, families explore and settle into their new surroundings. But what happens when that favorite item is lost? What emotional roller coaster does a child go through when they aren't able to find their best friend?

Fuzzy was Jenna's best friend. She would snuggle with her, read with her and Fuzzy would keep her company when she brushed her teeth and combed her hair. When Jenna and her family arrived at the beach there was so much to see and do, she had forgotten all about Fuzzy and it was days later that she realized Fuzzy was gone and if she didn't find her soon, she would be gone forever. Since Fuzzy's disappearance, Jenna felt the days were running together. The families routine was the same day in and day out. Jenna was very sad. Her sisters, Kristen and Tara, rallied together to make their beach holiday a more fun and adventurous experience for Jenna, especially since there were no signs of Fuzzy. One day the girls were exploring in the tall grasses and Jenna discovered a not so friendly cat. The cat was hissing and Jenna saw that there were some new born kittens resting on something. That something turned out to be her beloved Fuzzy. The momma cat was protecting her babies and Fuzzy was providing them comfort just like she had done for Jenna so many times. Now there is a dilemma. Jenna has found her long lost friend. Should she take Fuzzy away from the precious little kittens or should she leave her their to continue comforting the kittens?


Cat Michaels has put young readers in a position to solve the dilemma. Readers must brainstorm and utilize their critical thinking skills to write the ending to Jenna's story. This quick to read chapter book has small colorful illustrations that help readers imagine the beach. Readers will also find that the author has created a world where they use all five senses. The back of the book has tips for parents and teachers to help their readers.

CAT MICHAELS started writing stories in fourth grade and hasn’t stopped since. After earning an M.S. degree in special education from the University of Kansas, she spent two decades helping students from kindergarten to college reach their potential.
She also managed communication and resource development programs for an international high-tech company that included writing press releases and articles for trade journals. After recession and downsizings, she returned to her education roots, serving at a community college as a writing coach and learning specialist for students with Asperger’s syndrome and learning disabilities.
Cat spins tales of everyday life, with a twist of magic or twinge of mystery, that open young minds to new ways of thinking and looking at the world. Illustrations by watercolor artist Irene A. Jahns help bring that world to life.
Cat and her family live in North Carolina where she designs playful gardens, dabbles in all things digital, and writes.


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Download free pdf of chapter 1 and You-Decide pages

You Tube
Finding Fuzzy book preview video, narrated by third-grader Erin
http://youtu.be/o5ySSAGVeoQ



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