GIVE THIS BOOK A COVER Preorder Giveaway!

In three short weeks, on May 4th, my second activity book — Give This Book a Cover — hits shelves. The book offers more of the sort of creativity-boosting activities that can be found in Give This Book a Title — How to Draw instructions, writing/drawing prompts, and Finish this Comic comics — while also challenging those who’ve used the previous book to explore some imaginative territory they may not have before. I hope these carefully crafted and thoughtfully arranged activities not only give kids something fun and creative to do, but get them excited about using their creativity, and also help train their brains to see the potential stories both all around and within them.

If you have, or plan on, preordering the book, make sure to enter the Give This Book a Cover preorder giveaway. What can you win? a 30-minute visit with me! It can be used as a classroom, library, or whole school visit (if you are in a school or wish to donate the visit to one); it can be used as a small-group workshop (for a comics club or during a birthday party, for instance) or one-on-one lesson; it can be used as a consultation (if you are an author, illustrator, or author-illustrator looking for some insight or advice); or it can be used however else you wish!

To enter the giveaway, send proof of your preorder to LernerPreorder@gmail.com. And as always for my preorder giveaways, if you get your copy (or copies!) from an independent bookseller, you’ll be entered into the giveaway twice.

Thank you, as always, for the support, and I hope you and/or the young creators in your life enjoy this next batch of my activities!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Lisa Fipps!

My name is… Lisa Fipps.

I am an… introspective extroverted introvert. I love being around people, especially people I can laugh or have a deep, meaningful conversation with, but then I need to escape, retreat to my quiet, private space. When I’m extroverting (I love to make nouns into verbs), not only do I like to have fun and explore the world, but I also gather in my brain basket everything I see, hear, and feel. Then when I’m introverting, I process it all to use it in my writing. Natalie Goldberg describes this process perfectly in Writing Down the Bones. “Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life … But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time.”

As a kid, I was… the good girl, the responsible one, the resourceful one, the problem-solver, the fixer, the glue. Even though I come from a dysfunctional home and am the survivor of several childhood traumas, as a kid I was terrified of losing my family. So, I assumed the above-listed roles. The weight of the world was on my shoulders. All. The. Time. I think that’s why I gravitate toward issue-oriented books for kids. They’re living tough topics. They need books about tough topics.

Writing is… my life. I don’t write. I’m a writer. It’s who I am. I never feel more me than when I’m writing or hanging out with other writers. We see the world differently. We experience it differently. We’re our own artistic creatures that others often don’t understand.

Reading is… part pleasure and part pain. I love reading a good book. Some make me laugh. Some make me cry. Some make me think. Some teach me. Some do a combination of those things. That’s the pleasure part. But as a writer, I often find myself studying how the writer wrote the book. You know how a new mechanic will take an engine apart to identify and understand each piece and how it all goes together? That’s what I do. I dismantle the plot, dialogue, conflict, and so on to figure out how it all comes together, how it works. That gets to be a pain when all I want to do is enjoy a book.

Books are… my escape. When I was struggling with a lot of things as a kid, I could open a book and instantly be transported to England or Florida or another galaxy – far away from the chaos of home. I loved feeling like I was the character in a book and living a different life. If only for a while.

Did you know… I used to test-drive cars and write about them from a consumer point of view. That’s when I was a journalist. A limited-edition Camaro. Convertibles. A new car every week to drive as much as I wanted – I only had to put gas in them if I ran out – for several years. I’ve always had a thing for cars, especially new ones with all the bells and whistles. I never knew my dad because he died when I was 13 months old, but I’m told he was the same. Must be in my genes. 

You can find me… writing, doing school visits and events, reading, dabbling in art (watercolor and photography), and driving. Driving relaxes me. Oh, and you can find me virtually through my website, https://authorlisafipps.com/, or Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Just search for Author Lisa Fipps.

Get to Know… Kevin and Basil Sylvester!

My name is… Kevin Sylvester.

I am a… goofball.

Which is useful to be when you write and illustrate books for kids.

I try to write books that would have pleased and entertained a 12-year-old me, and I think I’m still that kid with more (thank goodness) adult behaviour on top.

But the things that made laugh back then (word play, snark, bizarre and unexpected juxtapositions) still make me laugh.

The types of stories that made me want to read back then (comic books, mysteries, adventure) still make me want to read.

As a kid, I was… a quiet geek. Awkward, shy, slightly hyperactive. I found an outlet in drawing. I can lose myself for hours with a pencil and paper.

But it was in third grade that I thought I might not be bad at it. I drew a witch for a Halloween drawing contest and won a pack of bubble gum. It’s still the most I’ve been paid for a single drawing, and it made me start taking art more seriously.

Writing is… frantic.

You know this, Jarrett, but there’s a pattern to writing that always starts with an idea, then the excitement of following that idea… then the slog of trying to get that down on paper (or computer).

Drawing, as a process, can be relaxing.

Writing CAN be like that, but never (in my experience) until I’ve reached the smoothing out stage of draft #3+. But we were all prepared for this as kids, because our editors today are basically just telling us the same things our teachers told us back when:

Read this over before you hand it in.

Read it out loud.

Show it to someone else.

Drawing is… as close to prayer and meditation as anything in life.

Everything around me quiets and settles. I’m still conscious, making decisions about the drawing, but I can lose myself within the drawing.

Part of this was embracing messiness, mistakes, and the joy of doodling.

I know that the process, if allowed to continue on its own, will often yield interesting results.

I’m actually finding this hard to articulate in a way that might be useful to someone else.

I guess the bottom line is that you should never judge a drawing until it is done, and you know it is done when it is…. done.

(See earlier answer about writing).

Reading is… as important as writing.

To be a writer is to be a reader. You HAVE to read. Not just because that’s where you encounter new ideas and POVs but because it’s the best place to pillage and plunder for nuggets of gold. You might be wowed by a sentence in a new book. A writer will deconstruct why that sentence worked, and how it used the placement of words or sounds or images to lead to a specific result.

Then a writer will learn from that and will use it in their own writing.

But, I also want to say that reading is half of a book, even if you are not a writer.

Our culture is obsessed with the idea of a “work of art” as an object in and of itself. We go to museums and look at works of art that are completely taken out of their context, their utility in the real world. The viewer merely observes, rarely interacts.

Books blast that wall down. Why? Because once I’m done a book, it is a dead object. Paper and ink. I call this the first “half circle” of the book.

The book is completed, made alive again, when a reader reads it. Let’s say The Fabulous Zed Watson sells a million copies (please, Basil and I need the money). Well, there is no longer one Zed Watson. There are a million. Each reader closes the circle in their own personal way.

Books are… see earlier response.

But I would add two things. Each book a writer makes is the answer to a question. What if we lived in Space? What if the greatest book ever written was never published, but buried in a hidden location?

I think of books as messengers. Not in a didactic way (although they can be that), but as couriers for ideas, feelings, experiences. I learn so much about the world by reading books from perspectives, or about experiences, that are different from mine.

Did you know… I play hockey as many as four times a week? And I freeze a skating rink every year in my backyard?

I also love baseball. Maybe too much.

You can find me… in my messy attic.

In schools (I love doing school visits – virtually or in person).

Online, all over the place.

And, once this pandemic is over, at as many NerdCamps as will have me in person. Finding people who are smarter than you, and put kids first, is invigorating, inspiring, and humbling.

My name is… Basil Sylvester.

I am a… weirdo (and since I cite my sources: my family has said this me for years. I come by it honestly, though!).

As a kid, I was… super intense. Always! Ask my dad, ask anyone–I was always talking everyone’s ears off all the time. My mom had to give us a “no tapping on the shoulder” rule because of how many times I just could not wait for her to be done with her conversation before I needed her attention. I think I’m a lot like Zed in this respect, ha ha.

Writing is… HARD. some people–like my dad–write very quickly and have a ton of ideas happening at once. I do not. It can take me literal years to write a word of a story idea. By the time we got the email from our friend and colleague Suzanne Sutherland, asking us if we’d be interested in writing a middle grade book with a nonbinary kid, I had given up on becoming a writer. I was too critical, and could never write anything. I’d delete it or I’d cross it out. But the universe did not give up on me, and i really do thank my lucky stars every single day for that!

A slight tangent, but: I get asked a lot if Zed is the book I needed at that age, or if I wrote with that kid in mind, and the answer is actually no, I didn’t. I wasn’t ready for that then, personally. I was too busy with all the other things that made me feel like an outsider; I only started questioning my gender in my late teens, right before graduating high school. Kids these days are lightyears ahead of me at that age, and that’s part of why I’m so excited about having Zed out in the world! I’ve already had kids say they or their friends are trans/nonbinary. I didn’t even know that existed when I was younger, and if I did, I don’t think I would have connected with it at that age. I was too busy realizing I wasn’t straight to add not being cis onto that, too.

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that kids (especially at that age) have literally SO MUCH going on in their lives that it’s a treat to write for them because you really never know what kind of story they need to hear–and sometimes they don’t, either!

Drawing is… ALSO HARD. I think one of the things I’m proudest of on Zed is that I designed the cover and did the lettering! It took a frankly unbelievable amount of time and I thought, wow, how do artists do this every day? What the heck? Then it turned out I wasn’t using Procreate properly and when they asked me to do the spine lettering as well, I did the first rough sketch in 45 minutes. You live and learn. (Although I am a bit bummed because I like the spine lettering so much better! You can see I kind of know what I’m doing!) Can you tell I’m a bit of a lazy creative? I much prefer editing to writing, actually; my dream is to be a fiction editor because I love helping other people achieve their vision for a project. It’s like a fossil! The shape is there, you’re just helping them reveal the awesome colossus underneath.

Reading is… something I need to do more! I own almost too many books to fit in my studio apartment, and I’ve probably only read about 30% of them…

Books are… magic! And that’s not just a beloved indie bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. Books can provide escapism and community, sometimes at the same time! I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true! I was doing an author visit a couple weeks ago and a kid raised his hand and said he had a friend who was nonbinary, like in my book. And I smile every time I think about that–I hope Zed and other books let that kid see his friend living a full life, and that the friend sees that there are so many possibilities out there!

I’ve made some incredible and lifelong friends through books, bookselling, and book launches and events, and it’s really such an amazing community. Hooray for books!

Did you know… that I’ve seen the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (directed by Joe Wright) over 400 times? That there might be dinosaur remains on the moon and even as far as MARS?! That the voyager golden record has greetings from Earth in 55 different languages? That scientists have taught spinach to send emails? (I think Gabe would really like that.)

You can find me… in my little hobbit hole of an apartment, avoiding doing my dishes and reading my friends’ Star Trek: The Original Series fanfiction. (And also intermittently on Instagram, @ghostbasil.)

The ROGUE ROBOT COLLECTION!

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, February 23rd, this came into the world:

The Rogue Robot Collection is a boxed set containing hardcover copies of all three books in the EngiNerds trilogy: EngiNerds, Revenge of the EngiNerds, and The EngiNerds Strike Back. Now, with a single purchase, you can satisfy all of your farting robot needs! But seriously: I hope you’ll consider the boxed set as a gift for any kids in your life who enjoy silly stories with a dash of heart a whole lot of adventure.

Thanks!

~ Jarrett

GEEGER THE ROBOT TO THE RESCUE Cover Reveal!

I’m excited to share both the title and cover for the next book in my Geeger the Robot series:

As you might’ve been able to guess from the book’s cover, Geeger the Robot to the Rescue involves Geeger trying to cheer up his best friend, Tillie, who arrives at school one day in a very blah mood. The bot pulls out all the stops in order to try and turn Tillie’s frown upside down.

Geeger the Robot to the Rescue, the third book in the Geeger the Robot series, hits shelves on September 21st, but is available now for preorder wherever books are sold!

~ Jarrett

THE ENGINERDS STRIKE BACK!

Good morning!

Today’s the EngiNerds Strike Back Day!

I am SO EXCITED to hear what readers make of the conclusion of this EngiNerdy story arc! Things I planted in Book 1 (EngiNerds) , that sprouted in Book 2 (Revenge of the EngiNerds), fully bloom here in the EngiNerds Strike Back. Things having to do with leadership, responsibility, and the importance of taking care of each other and our planet. There’s also plenty about farting robots, puppy-obsessed extraterrestrials, intergalactic advertising campaigns, and beans.

Thanks to everyone who has supported these books, whether you were reading them (and rooting me on!) from the get-go, way back in 2017, or you’ve only recently discovered them. And don’t forget: later this month, on February 23rd, the EngiNerds boxed set — the Rogue Robots Collection — comes out!

Isn’t it snazzy?!

Thanks again!

~ Jarrett

COVER REVEAL: Give This Book a Cover!

First I asked you to Give This Book a Title, and now I’m asking you to… Give This Book a Cover!

That’s right — this is the cover of my second activity book, Give This Book a Cover, which comes out on May 4th (just about three months away!). This book contains the same sorts of activities as you can find in Give This Book a Title, as well as on the Activities page of this website. However, with this batch of brand-new activities, I tried to give kids who wanted it an opportunity to push themselves a little further. In Give This Book a Cover, young creators will find the same silliness and fun — and, of course, instruction and inspiration! — but many of the activities will prompt them, if they choose, to engage in some deeper self-reflection and -exploration. All of this is intended to help kids learn how to mine their own selves and experiences for the sort of raw material needed to create stories of their own, whether they choose to write them, draw them, or both!

I get an incredible amount of joy — and inspiration! — from seeing what kids do with the activities from Give This Book a Title, as well as those I share for free on the Activities page of this site. I am thrilled to see what they do with this new collection of activities in Give This Book a Cover.

Here’s a look at the full cover — back, spine, and front:

As I mentioned above, Give This Book a Cover comes out on May 4th. However, it’s now available for preorder wherever books are sold!

~ Jarrett

HUNGER HEROES: MISSED MEAL MAYHEM Cover Reveal!

Yesterday, I finally got the go-ahead to share the cover of the first graphic novel in my Hunger Heroes series! In case you missed it on social media, here you go:

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ve been hearing about this book for YEARS. It all started as a doodle dashed-off on some hotel stationary between sessions at a conference, and has gone through an enormous amount of development since then. I’m incredibly pleased with and proud of how it all turned out, and am excited to share more about the Heroes and their first adventure with you all in the lead-up to the book’s release this September!

~ Jarrett

GEEGER THE ROBOT: LOST AND FOUND!

Today’s the release day for the second book in my Geeger the Robot series of early chapter books! I hope this somewhat silly take on the serious subject of self-doubt brings readers joy, delight, confidence, comfort, and hope.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this series so far. The books are a total blast to create, and I’m very proud of how they’re turning out. I’m excited to share more about the next books in the Geeger the Robot series soon!

~ Jarrett

Jarrett Lerner’s Online Games!

In case you missed the announcement on social media, I’ve launched a brand-new online project!

Every Friday morning, I’ll post a creative activity or challenge on my social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Responses to the activity or challenge can be submitted as replies to the post itself. (They must be, in fact — I will not read or consider responses submitted by other means.) I will read and consider the properly submitted responses as they come in, and will continue to do so for each activity or challenge until I’ve posted the following week’s activity or challenge. And once I’ve done that, I’ll select and announce the previous week’s winner (or winners, if I decide that more than one response is win-worthy!). The winner will receive a signed copy of my first activity book, Give This Book a Title.

Also, please note: there are no age limits or requirements for entry. Kids can enter. Grown-ups can enter. Parents can enter on behalf of their kids. Educators can enter on behalf of their students. And, yeah, I suppose even kids and students can enter on behalf of their parents and educators!

The first activity or challenge will be posted this morning, in less than an hour’s time! So keep an eye out, or come find me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to participate. I hope this project proves fun, and that it helps reveal the creativity within every one of us and encourages people to more often share that creativity with the world.

Enjoy!

~ Jarrett