Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Interview With Author and Musician Joni Klein-Higger

Joni Klein-Higger is a children's book author, songwriter, and musical theater playwright. Her children's musical Recycle was just released by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Joni, How did you first get into writing musicals?

I grew up in a musical home. Between my parents, my three brothers and me there was always someone singing, whistling, playing the piano, strumming a guitar or squeezing an accordion. Even my bedtime routine as a young child was based around music. Instead of reading me a picture book, my father serenaded me with Irving Berlin songs and Broadway show tunes, only to be followed by a Broadway show album to help me go to sleep. It’s no wonder my brain to this day is constantly filled with music.

After graduating with a BA in Speech Communications from Ithaca College, I attended a variety of songwriting workshops in New York City. My love for songwriting and theater eventually came together when I enrolled in a musical theater workshop, and next thing you know, I was hooked!

Give us your "elevator pitch" for Recycle – The Musical

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.

Before listening to your musical, I'd never thought about the amount of disposable products we use today as compared to the 1950's. What inspired your concept?

I’ve been writing children’s musicals for over thirteen years now. Several years ago, one of the elementary school teachers I worked with requested I write a musical about recycling for her classroom. I jumped at the opportunity to create a musical for kids involving a subject matter near and dear to my heart. The only catch was this teacher requested that we re-use the “50’s-style” costumes from a show I wrote for her that previous year. In the words of Professor Rosco, “What better way to help our future than by revisiting the past.” And so, Recycle – The Musical was born.

My favorite song from your musical is "Rock N Roll With Me." It has a real 50's vibe. What were your musical influences for writing it?

This song was written to introduce the time traveling kids to the 50’s kids while capturing the essence of the 50’s decade. The way I see it, you can’t have a “50’s musical” without a fun, hopping, 50’s dance number. My goal when creating “Rock ‘N Roll With Me” was to combine the high energy of  “Rock Around The Clock” with a song that had motions the kids could easily perform, like “The Locomotion," written by my favorite songwriter, Carole King. I loved watching the kids perform this production number—they were so into it!

How does marketing children’s musicals differ from marketing children’s books?

With children’s books, the world is our oyster for marketing our products—school visits, online promotions, book readings, etc., but for musicals I mostly target educators, summer camps and theater programs. My publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, also markets to home schoolers, religious schools and children oriented organizations.This particular musical, however, is different in that I can market it as a book as well as a musical due to its story and subject matter.

What can fans of your work look forward to seeing next?

I currently have three more works that will soon be released by Guardian Angel Publishing. 

First is A Rainbow of Friendship, which is a rhyming picture book about a girl who moves from the comforts of her “little red town” to Rainbow Row City. On her journey she discovers that friendship comes in many colors, shapes and sizes.

Next is I Have A Voice, a children’s picture book I co-wrote with Dr. Flora Zaken-Greenberg, a licensed PhD.  It is the story of a five-year-old girl who is afraid to speak and learns to overcome her problem with the help of a “Feelings doctor.”

And finally, another musical, RED, which I co-wrote with Jane Tesh.  In this musical Red Writing Hood, with the help of her magic pencil, changes fairytales and turns Fairy Tale Land upside down.

You can learn more about Joni Klein-Higger at her website, and copies of Recycle - The Musical can be purchased at Guardian Angel Publishing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Is A Text Set And How Can Having One Benefit An Author?

A text set is a collection of materials to supplement the study of a topic, a picture book, or a novel. A good overview can be found here.

Emily Roderique, M.Ed. English III Teacher, recently developed a text set to be used in conjunction with my book, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL. A text set gives a book an advantage with educators because some of the prep work for using it has already been done.

My text set is divided into four categories: I. Tuberculosis, II. North Carolina Sanatoriums, III. Famous People Affected by TB, and IV. NC History, Culture, and Geography. Under each of these categories, Emily listed nonfiction books, websites, articles, documentaries, even blog interviews, and Pinterest boards. All of these resources supplement understanding the world in which my protagonist lived.

My favorite nonfiction book included in my text set is Jim Murphy's INVINCIBLE MICROBE.

And perhaps the most famous authors to die from tuberculosis are the Bronte sisters. Catherine Reef's wonderful biography is also included.

THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL'S text set is available for free download. Leave any questions you might have in the comments. Both Emily and I are available to answer them.