KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is an award-winning, multi-genre author, poet, blogger, book reviewer, and human rights activist.
One of my absolute favorite things about being a writer is having the opportunity to meet so many talented, hard-working authors, creatives, and artists. It has been sheer joy reading/reviewing some of the most original, imaginative, award-winning, unforgettable stories on the planet. Kind of like this recent book I’ve had the pleasure of coming across, Pete the Pancake by Diana L. Smith.
After reading this entertaining, heartwarming story, I just had to know more about Pete and the author behind this adorable, five-star tale! So, without further ado, let’s meet debut author, Diana L. Smith!
Welcome, Diana, thanks for stopping by! Please share a bit about yourself.
My name is Diana L. Smith. I live in Florida with my husband and best friend, Kevin. I was originally an Ohio girl and moved in 2000 for work. I loved Ohio, and it was a wonderful place to grow up, but here in FL, you do not have to shovel sunshine!
Tell us more about Pete the Pancake. How did he come to be? What inspired the title?
Well, Kevin and I were at our friend’s house (Colin and Michelle – yes, the same names in the book) and Michelle was making pancakes. Most of the pancake makers in the world know that the first one turns out a little wonky. Sure enough, that happened, and Michelle was getting ready to throw it out. I told her, “awww don’t throw it away. It’s cute. I will take him! We could even call him Pete.” And, so it began! What is really funny and may sound odd because I never really thought about it in this way but, I am Pete in a way! I have neurofibromatosis. It is a genetic disorder that causes nervous system tumors, so I look different than most people. So, I know what it feels like when people stare. It is just what I have and not who I am, which is an important distinction. I am a happy-go-lucky person and feel blessed in this life!
Very cool how Pete was created…and thanks for sharing why you relate to his character, and choosing to spread humor, positivity, and gratitude through books and reading.
The illustrations are fabulous. Who designed/illustrated the book?
Max Alnutt is the illustrator. He is so talented and really brought Pete to life for me. I sent him my sketch of what I wanted Pete to look like (which was terrible) but he got the idea and voila – Pete!
Do you have a favorite writing/creative space?
When I was in 5th grade, we had an assignment to write a short story. I wrote, The missing 10-million-dollar stamp. I was so proud of that story. I somehow found that my favorite place to write was in the laundry room, sitting in front of the dryer with the lid down like some sort of desk! No idea why I chose that but, I was 10! Now, I enjoy sitting out on the pool deck writing.
Pool-side writing sounds very relaxing! What’s your favorite part about being a children’s book author?
I love to be creative. My husband always said that I should have been in marketing or advertising rather than IT, which I have been for years and years. I am proud of the message that Pete delivers to kids and adults alike. All too often, people shy away from people or things that are different probably for many different reasons. They fear someone that looks different. They may not know how to react. Some people are just judgmental.
What’s next for Pete? What are you working on at the moment?
I want Pete to make it to the buffet. I figure that he will be introduced to other foods and hear their stories. For example, I see Pete meeting foods that people are afraid of without even trying them. I remember being a little girl and my family and I were having dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. My father wanted me to try the octopus and I was scared, even brought to tears! I finally tried it and loved it!!! It is really the same lesson but, in another way that kids can understand. I believe that people need to think about who they shy away from or ignore. They could be missing out on getting to know someone that was meant to be their best friend until the day that they die. You never know. Don’t make assumptions.
I couldn’t agree more. Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember being in love with the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. I could not get enough of those.
Who are your all-time favorite authors?
There have been so many different ones…that is a tough question. I have read so many different authors from Tolstoy to Gary Larson. All over the place, right? That is what makes it fun!
My favorite poem is by W.B. Yeats – ‘The Pilgrim Soul’ and Sidney Sheldon was a guilty pleasure for sure. I genuinely enjoy songs and consider songwriters as authors. Some of my favorite lines from songs are:
The Beatles – “In the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Rolling Stones – “You can’t always get what you want but, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
Any advice for new indie writers?
First off, believe in yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back. It is an incredible feeling to get your physical book in your hands for the first time!!!! I cried. It is a lot of work but completely worth every minute!
Great advice, indeed. What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?
My husband and I are travel nuts! We love exploring new places. We have been to six continents and are only missing Antarctica. The pandemic has kept us at home like everyone else, but we’re really looking forward to getting back out there. We love to cook and especially like to bring home the flavors and recipes of the different countries that we have visited. We love movies and are one of those couples that love different movie quotes!
Six continents! I’ll bet you’ve had some pretty amazing, unforgettable experiences. Thank you so much, Diana, for hanging out at the blog and for sharing Pete the Pancake with the world! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him.
What would you like readers to know?
I hope that they enjoy Pete and really understand the story. There are many feelings that are contagious. Chose kindness, acceptance, and love. And if those emotions and actions dominate our lives and outlook, just think what a wonderful world we could have!
Where can readers find your books?
Pete is available on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited, Kindle eBook, and paperback. You can find Pete in every market that Amazon has all over the world.
Join Diana L. Smith and Pete the Pancake on social media…
Thanks again and have a great summer!
KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is an award-winning, multi-genre author, poet, blogger, book reviewer, and human rights activist. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she continues to share her love of storytelling, all things 80s, and tries to stay out of trouble.
Love the 80s? Read award-winning young adult comedy, Mall Hair Maladies
Summer vacation is almost here and that means lots of sunshine, campfires, baseball games, road trips, roller coasters, fireworks, barbecues, cannonballs into the pool, and Summer Reading 2018! Encouraging your child to stay on top of their reading maintains literacy, strengthens critical thinking skills, keeps them from falling behind, supports their reading development, builds vocabulary, and nurtures a lifelong love of books. All great stuff, right?
VISIT THE LIBRARY
Getting kids involved in their local library is important for many reasons. In addition to the various Summer Reading Programs, access to free books, magazines, audio books, music, and internet, there are opportunities to volunteer, find a reading buddy or tutor, and be in an environment where other kids are reading for fun. Most libraries have some sort of Summer Reading Program so stop on in and let the fun begin!
“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.” Lilian Jackson Braun
“I have found that the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Laura Bush
“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein
“Getting my library card was like citizenship: it was like American citizenship.” Oprah Winfrey
SUMMER READING GOALS
Whether kids are getting their books from libraries, bookstores, or online apps, setting aside 20 minutes or more for reading should be an essential part of their daily routine. Create a snazzy chart, graph, or poster to record daily, weekly, or monthly reading goals, use incentives, and reward progress. A promised shopping spree at Barnes&Noble or Half Price Books goes a long way!
Reward them with the key to a locked treasure chest filled with surprise goodies. The wonder and anticipation of what’s inside is a huge motivator. Fill it with stickers, baseball cards, bookmarks, ear buds, sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, UNO, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, or Go Fish cards, Jacks, a journal, shiny marbles, colored stones, beads…the possibilities are endless!
- A magazine subscription for Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Story Monsters Ink, or any subject of particular interest (dance, science, sports, fashion, cars).
- Tickets to an upcoming sporting event, concert, or movie they’ve been wanting to see.
- A gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Half Price Books, or Record Exchange.
- Something specific they’ve had their eye on (video game, skateboard, jewelry box).
SUMMER READING PROGRAMS
* Your public library
* Carnegie Library Summer Reading Extravaganza
* Barnes&Noble Summer Reading
* Half Price Books Summer Reading Program
* Scholastic Summer Challenge
* Sylvan Learning’s Book Adventure
Let’s face it, reading lots of books can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there are a ton of places to score some free ones. School, online apps, and the public library are always great places to start.
- Get them a library card.
- Take them book shopping.
- Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.
- Encourage them to donate/share used books.
- Laugh! Reading should be fun.
- Discuss the story and characters; encourage questions.
- Prompt them to bring stories/books along for trips, car rides, waiting areas, and picnics.
- Create decorative bookmarks together for every season.
- Be an example! They need to see you reading too.
- Do a Summer Reading Challenge with them.
HAPPY READING, HAPPY SUMMER!
Getting children to be enthusiastic about reading can sometimes be a challenge. Compared to the television, with all of its stimulating jingles, colors, and characters, reading may seem quite boring. That’s why the earlier they begin their lifelong love of books, the better. Books with vibrant art, rhyming, and lively characters is a great place to start. Soon they’ll be hungry for new words, worlds, and of course, special time with you.
*Make sure to read with them daily. Although schedules get hectic, carving out 15 minutes for a story goes a long way.
* Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.
*Use funny voices or accents sometimes just for fun.
*Get them a library card and show them how to use it. Spend time there together and allow them to choose subjects of interest. You may also want to participate in some of the activities/programs that your branch has to offer.
*Bring them to the used bookstore for new reads and encourage them to donate or share books they’ve outgrown.
*Make story time your uninterrupted one on one time together.
*Laugh! Reading should be enjoyable and fun.
*Discuss the story and characters- always encourage questions. Rouse their imagination by asking how they would’ve chosen the story to end or what happens afterward.
*Have lots of literature at home and available to them. Make it a fun project to build and decorate a bookcase for their bedroom filled with favorite books.
*Prompt them to bring books along for trips, car time, waiting areas, picnics, etc.
*Teach them to respect books, their pages, and to take good care of them. Allow them to develop a bond with reading in general.
*Create decorative book markers together for every season for some craft time fun.
*Be an example. If kids see that reading is your norm, it’ll be theirs.
*Most of all, inspire them to make books and reading a part of their everyday life. Read signs, menus, games, flash cards, magazines, comic books, etc. Take them to libraries, bookstores, annual book sales, and flea market tables. Sound things out together, teach alternative meanings, challenge, and praise them often.
“What is another word for mommy?” Bibliophile. Bibliophagist. Logophile. Bibliomaniac. Bookworm. Happy.