Friday, September 24, 2021

Gwen Neiman Levy’s Student/Writer Success Story + Book Giveaway!

 Oh, how Time flies when we’re realizing our Dreams!

You first met Gwen Neiman Levy, the star of today’s Student Success Story, here, in my March, 2020 post, when I lauded her determination for pursuing her Dream to write and publish a picture book about 2 BFFFs – 2 Best Feathered Friends Forever.

The true story of two unlikely friends, a Duck and a Turkey, had been living inside her head, her heart and her computer for more years than she could count.

Fast-forward 2 ½ years to today’s post celebrating the September release of Gwen’s timely picture book What the Cluck? (SimonSawyerPublishers), beautifully illustrated by Anna Curry.

Gwen knew: she was publishing this story!  There was truly no stopping her!

Throughout the time Gwen and I worked together, first in class, then next independently, her steadfastness to her Dream, no matter the obstacles, kept me leaping and keepin’ on.

I’m certain reading her Writer’s story will inspire you to do the same.

As for the story she wrote and published? Just enter our Book Giveaway at the end of this post to win your very own copy of What the Cluck?

Though it might sound tongue-in-cheek, I applaud Gwen’s pluck pursuing her Dream to publish a story about two feathered friends.

We all know how stultifying it is to begin at Step One in pursuit of any endeavor, artistic or not.

Yet Gwen continued forward, first learning her craft, honing her craft, fine-tuning her story, readying her story for readers, only to then need to learn  - as well as - conquer the ins and out of independent book publishing.

Again, and fortunately, there was truly no stopping her.

Take heart from Gwen’s story, as well as that of Myles’ and Sophie’s.  Then be sure to enter our Book Giveaway of Gwen’s debut picture book What the Cluck?

Oh, and thanks to our former TeachingAuthor Laura Purdie Salas for hosting today’s Poetry Friday at Small Readers for Brighter Days.  

Happy Dream Pursuing!

Esther Hershenhorn

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Readers will be happy to learn: there's a REAL Sophie and Myles! Please share how this story came to be.

The inspiration for What the Cluck? began with my fascination watching a friendship grow between a duck and a turkey on a small farm in Sawyer, Michigan.  My children and I visited the farm on weekends so they could come to know life on the farm.  Isobella, Myles and Sophie are the names of my beloved grandchildren.

Why do you think this "unlikely friendship" story is especially relevant today?

What the Cluck? tells a story about inclusion, acceptance, befriending those who are different - all necessary mind-sets for today's children in a world filled with uncertainty and prejudices.  I personally know that lessons of inclusion can begin at an early age.  Rogers and Hammerstein wrote "South Pacific" in 1949.  Both the song "You Have to Be Carefully Taught" and the musical received scrutiny for addressing the subject of relationships between difference races and ethnic groups.  I was 10 years old when I first heard the song. I am now 82 and certainly not enough progress has been made in the last 72 years.  However, we must not lose hope.  I know we will have peace and harmony some day.

YOU are new to writing for children. Yet you chose one of the most challenging formats to master - the Picture Book. What were some of your biggest challenges in telling this story to young readers?

When I began seriously working on the story that had sat unfinished in my computer for several years, I knew absolutely not one single thing about the world of authors, illustrators, publishers, book designers, website designers, public relations - and - writing.  All I knew was: I needed help!

Then...Esther Hershenhorn came into my life! I took her one-night-only class at the University of Chicago's Graham School's Writer's Studio and realized I'd found the person to help me finish my story.

Once the manuscript was ready for publication, I faced the challenge of putting together a team to help me independently publish the book.  When Anna finished her illustrations, TLC Book Design helped me put the book together so it was ready for printing.

Though a picture book is 50% words + 50% illustrations, the two elements miraculously total 150%. Please share how you discovered Anna Curry and how you worked with her as she brought Myles and Sophie and your story to the page.

Midway through the process I decided to change illustrators. I spent hours on the computer surfing the net. I must have looked at the portfolios of a thousand illustrators.  Finally, I narrowed my choice to two, then decided on Anna, who is represented by Shannon and Associates in New York.

Anna grew up on a farm in northern England and still resides on a farm.  She was the perfect illustrator to capture the essence and spirit of my characters.  She does not computer-generate her images.  All of her work is original and hand painted.  Each character is unique and expressive.

The long distance between us created delays and many emails suggesting additions and corrections.  But we worked well together, sharing ZOOM calls with my TLC team.

The final paintings are just wonderful.  They bring life to my words.

You worked non-stop, 24/7 to realize your Dream of bringing What the Cluck? to the hands and hearts of readers.  What Joys have you experienced, both expected and unexpected?

I feel such joy because I made my Dream come true! I published my children's book! Being 82 was a challenge. I needed to learn additional computer skills to communicate with my team members.  But I did it!

I realize now that if you have an idea and you are determined to develop it, your age doesn't matter.  You can do it!  It takes patience, concentration, research, finances and the love for what you are creating, whatever that art form.

I've received unexpected joy from my family's and friends' compliments and support.  When they say they are proud of me and my accomplishment, I tell them I am proud of me too!

And now that I know how to write a picture book and publish it independently, I am ready to write and publish Book Number Two!

. . . . . . . 

YAY! It's time to enter our Book Giveaway drawing! Use the Rafflecopter widget below.  You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. (Note: if the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter)

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page.  If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer,, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends October 1, 2021 and is open to US. Residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Kathy Doherty said...

You had me at the title! HA!

Patricia Toht said...

What a terrific accomplishment! Well done, Gwen.

Danielle H. said...

That title is clever and speaks volumes. I love friendship stories and farm stories are fun.

Margot said...

Dear Gwennie,
Brava! The book is so lovely and so perfect for our chaotic times! So thrilled for you!

Pam said...

LOVE the title. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing journey. You are such an inspiration!! OH I know this story is delightful read for me and my homeschooling kinfolk. Thanks again for sharing with us.

cathyj25 said...

What a fascinating way to address this issue! Easily understood by the age group and full of fun.

Carmela Martino said...

Congratulations, Gwen! I look forward to reading your book.

Nancy P said...

Looks like an adorable book.

Linda said...

Congratulations, Gwen! Your book sounds like fun!

Carol Varsalona said...

Congratulations on the new book with a very intriguing title!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Oh, thank you all who entered our Book Giveaway and took Heart and Hope from my interview with Gwen.
Non-stop Inspiration, yes?