Monday, November 28, 2016

Joni Klein-HIgger Author Interview

Joni Klein-Higger

Please tell about your background.
I have been a singer/songwriter for as long as I can remember, but didn’t become a children’s book author until I had children of my own. I wrote my first children’s book, Rainbow of Friendship, when I was a Girl Scout troop leader. The girls in my troop were creating books in order to earn a literature badge. I decided to create a book too and based it on my beautiful, diverse girl scout troop. That was over 16 years ago. Since then I have had three picture books, one middle grade novel, and three children’s musicals published.

How did you decide to become a children's writer and what steps did you take to make that happen?
After I completed my Rainbow of Friendship manuscript, I realized that in order to make it the best it could be, I had to learn more about the children’s book market and how to write marketable children’s books. I did my research and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), 12 x 12, and several writing critique groups.  Oh, and did I forget to mention…I write. A lot!

Tell us about your book(s), especially about the one you are promoting now. (I will list your books/covers in the blog.)

Rainbow of Friendship (Guardian Angel Publishing, illustrated by Eileen Goldenberg) is a diverse, rhyming picture book that was awarded Best Kids Book by Creative Child Magazine. It is the story of a red girl who moves from her red town to Rainbow Row City. It is there she discovers that friendship comes in many colors, shapes and sized.

Ten Tzedakah Pennies (Hachai Publishing, illustrated by Tova Leff)) is a rhyming Jewish children’s picture book about a boy who has ten pennies to share, so he gives each member of his family a chance to put a penny in the tzedakah box (a box used to collect money to be donated to charity.) This book is used in many Jewish Preschools to teach young children about counting, giving tzedakah, and doing a good deed.

I Have a Voice (Guardian Angel Publishing, illustrated by Eileen Goldenberg) is a picture book that addresses selective mutism and shyness. I co-wrote this book Dr. Flora Zaken-Greenberg and am happy to say it has been recommended by the Selective Mutism Foundation.

And finally, my latest release and first middle grade novel, Coby Ryan Harris is Officially Fat (Guardian Angel Publishing, co-written with Dr. Flora Zaken Greenberg.)  It is an inspiring novel about a smart and funny seventh-grade boy who overcomes the challenges of childhood obesity, bullying, girls, and divorce. Teen-friendly recipes are included along with healthy tips and a discussion with a licensed psychologist.

You also have three children’s musicals that I’d like to showcase, and you can listen to some of the songs on

Red – A Children’s Musical (Guardian Angel Publishing with Jane Tesh)
Red Writing Hood discovers that with the help of a magical pencil and paper, she can save herself from the Big Bad Wolf.  But when she starts meddling with other fairytales, she turns Fairy Tale Land upside down.  Join in the fun and follow Red Writing Hood on her musical journey.

Recyle – A Children’s Musical (Guardian Angel Publishing)
In this fun educational musical about recycling, a “nutty professor” transports four modern day kids back to the 1950’s. Together they compare the lifestyles of today’s “disposable generation” to kids living in a time before plastic bags, aluminum cans, and water bottles became a part of our every day life.

Land of Lost Socks – A Children’s Musical (Guardian Angel Publishing with Jane Tesh)
When Joel’s older brother tells him to get lost, Joel really gets lost! Amelia Earhart, the Lost Colony, and the Anazasi people are some of the famous historical mysteries Joel learns about when he is befriended by two lost socks, Tube and Argyle, in a land filled with missing things.

What is a typical writing day like for you?
A typical day? I usually start off with emails, social media, then exercise – Zumba, a bike ride, a walk. After a quick breakfast, I tackle whatever project I’m working on that needs the most attention - either a children’s book manuscript, song or musical. If there is a deadline for one of these projects, that project takes precedence. Once that goal is complete, I focus on any other work that needs to be addressed. I make sure to get out of the house for an hour or so to clear my head, then get back to work. I am currently working on two musicals, a musical picture book and a non-fiction picture book. I try to keep my work hours between 9am and 6pm, but this varies depending on my workload, school visits and author signings. Oh, and “life” sometimes gets in the way!
What is the most difficult part of writing for children?
For me the hardest part of writing is revising my manuscripts. It’s frustrating when I think I’ve got a manuscript down just right, then realize (usually after a critique group) that it is far from done. This happens more often than not.  I have dozens of manuscripts that I have to “step away from” for a while before I can re-visit them with fresh eyes and a solution.
What do you enjoy most about writing for children
Writing and revising is the hard part. But what I love is finally completing a book that I know will have a positive impact on someone else’s life. I love going to schools, meeting amazing kids, reading my books to and speaking with students about topics that are important for me to share. I love knowing that I’m using my talents to better the world in some way.
Do you make school visits? If so, please describe a typical school presentation.
Yes. I primarily do school visits that revolve around my book, Rainbow of Friendship. I usually start off with an original song, do an exercise with the kids that helps them tap into their uniqueness, read Rainbow of Friendship, talk about diversity and respecting ourselves and one another, speak a little about being an author, then end with another song and question/answer session.

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL.
My website is:

Tell us about your marketing process. What do you do to market and sell your books?
I use a lot of social media – Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter. Speaking at schools and doing book fairs  and author showcases are helpful in marketing as well.

What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on two musicals, a musical picture book and a non-fiction picture book about a well-known songwriter. The only one I can speak of at this time is the children’s musical based on Jaime Engel’s middle grade novel, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light. It is about a boy who finds a magical arrow in his closet and is transported back to 1485 England, where he meets two princes who are bullied by their tyrant uncle, King Richard III. This is a magical, anti-bullying, musical adventure. The script and songs for Clifton Chase are complete, and I am now in the process of recording the songs. Can’t wait for this one to come out!

What is your best tip for aspiring children's book authors?
Success doesn’t happen overnight, but the more time you devote to writing, bettering your craft and learning the children’s book market, the faster you will see success. I highly recommend joining a writing organization (SCBWI and 12x12 are great!) and finding a children’s writers’ critique group. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

Thank you so much for sharing your writing process and journey, plus tips for aspiring authors! 

Penelope Anne Cole
Multi-Award Winning Author of Magical Matthew, Magical Mea,
Magical Mea Goes to School, Magical Max and Magical Mickey, and
Magical Max and Magical Mickey’s Big Surprise
In and Out, All ‘Round About – Opposite Friends
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