Minecraft Laughs

Even Minecrafters need a laugh once in a while. Sometimes it’s just a matter of stepping outside of Hardcore mode and asking yourself why the chicken jockey crossed the road. Take a break from destroying creepers and building homes to laugh along with two new books full of Minecraft humor!

Jokes for Minecrafters: Booby Traps, Combs, Boo-Boos, and More by Michele C. Hollow, Jordon P. Hollow, and Steven M. Hollow

Jokes for Minecrafters - Booby Traps Bombs Boo-Boos and More

Jokes for Minecrafters is the first book in the new Jokes for Minecrafters series, which celebrates the humor in Minecraft from skeleton mobs to zombie pigmen. Be prepared to laugh! No ghast or blaze is safe from being the punch line of these jokes!

Inside you will find hilarious jokes such as:

Why did the slime stay home?
He had no place to goo!

How did Steve know that the skeleton was lying to him?
He could see right through him.

Hilarious Jokes for Minecrafters: Mobs, Creepers, Skeletons, and More by Michele C. Hollow, Jordon P. Hollow, and Steven M. Hollow

Hilarious Jokes for Minecrafters - Mobs Creepers Skeletons and More

Hilarious Jokes for Minecrafters is the second book in the Jokes for Minecrafters series, which boasts more than eight hundred jokes. The jokes inside poke fun at everything Minecraft from ghasts to Endermen. All of your favorite parts of the Minecraft game are included in the book, and the jokes will make you giggle like you’ve never giggled before!

Inside you will find uproarious jokes such as:

Why don’t they have knock-knock jokes in Minecraft?
Because hostile mobs don’t knock on your door—they blow it up!

What do you get when you cross an Enderman with a creeper?
A teleporting bomb.

 

For kids ages five and up, these are the perfect books for at home, at school, or really anywhere! You’ll enjoy telling these silly jokes to your friends and family. As a bonus there are silly illustrations throughout for extra laughs!

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Author Susannah Appelbaum on Bed-Writing and Q & A

Susannah Appelbaum’s YA novel, Divah, hits shelves on March 15th. Angels, demons, and Marie Antoinette—oh my! There are still a few weeks till you can get your own copy, but don’t worry! We have just what you need to keep you busy. We’ve put together a fun Q & A for Susannah, and she has shared a bit about her experience living at the Carlyle hotel, where most of the book is set. 


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Divah 

Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.

Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.

 

Appelbaum, Susannah - DivahSusannah Appelbaum realized at an early age that the world contains both good and evil—and she wanted nothing more than to write about it. By day, she does so. The night is reserved for keeping the world safe from shadows and demons. She has lived both in Paris and at the Carlyle hotel, where the service is exquisite and the food is never burnt. Susannah resides in New York’s Hudson Valley and is the critically acclaimed author of the Poisons of Caux series.

 


 

Susannah Appelbaum on Bed-Writing

When I lived in the Carlyle hotel, I used to write from bed. And why not? It was pure luxury. Coffee, tea, little delicate finger sandwiches were but a phone call away, and I was pampered and nourished while horizontal. I was following the tradition of many wildly successful authors who wrote from bed. It has been a few years since I moved to the country, leaving behind the white pressed sheets and room service of the Carlyle, and especially, the practice of bed-writing. I have now a room of my own, and after I lock myself away in it—and perform a series of odd rituals—I can begin for the day. But today, for the purpose of Sky Pony’s new blog, I have decided to break with this tradition and follow the likes of Proust, Truman Capote, Emily Dickinson (to name a few) and prop myself up on every pillow available, and kick back, bedside.

In bed (and out-of-bed), I am writing this on Ash Wednesday. Naturally, my mind turns to fire and ash. For, as I say in my new novel Divah, “Fire transforms everything.” Ash, throughout history, through dark ages and witch hunts, has played an important role in both the sacred (such as today) and the profane. As a young student, freshly attending New York University, I remember Ash Wednesday as the day I would wander the streets of the city and wonder why everyone’s forehead was smudged with black. Today’s ashes are a reminder of human mortality (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.) For others, ashes can protect, even from such things that roam the dark nights, and haunted ruins. The Talmud explains how to see demons, should you want to, and it involves finding and burning a black she-cat. Ashes can be used in divinatory ways, like tea leaves, or as a burnt offering (Make a wish. Write it down. Set it aflame). A ribbon of ash sprinkled over a threshold will prevent demons and other inhabitants of the spirit world from crossing. There is a drink made of ash from the Tree of Life. I have not tasted it, but it is said to ignite inspiration.

So let’s order room service, and lift our cups of ash tea, and toast together to continued inspiration!

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From Susannah‘s days living at the Carlyle. 

Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I grew up on fantasy, all the usual suspects. My first attempt at writing (age 6) was a total rip-off of the Wizard of Oz. Now, even if I try, I find it impossible to write realistic fiction. Every time I open my laptop, a dragon pops out.

Q: What are you reading right now?

I am reading a lot of crime fiction. Actually, one of my first loves was Agatha Christie. I am feeling the urge to write something mysterious, dark and deadly. And of course, somehow the supernatural will creep in. I am a big reference book junky. I own the complete Oxford English Dictionary, which takes up much real estate on my bookshelf. The current book on my nightstand is Amazing Rare Things, by David Attenborough. It’s full of beautiful illustrations of all sorts of weird flowers and animals and creatures to inspire.

Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Alice! From Alice in Wonderland. I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more than meet the Cheshire Cat. Or perhaps Itzy Nash, my lead character in Divah. I’ve spent a lot of time with her, and genuinely like her. She’s smart, funny, artistic (super into photography—like me), very independent, and, well, everything else is a spoiler.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write? 

Not bed. My study is lovely, as I hope you’ll agree.

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Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Anything Hitchcock. Rear Window, perhaps, is my favorite. But nothing can beat the dialog in All About Eve, and Bette Davis is my all-time fave. Can’t you just see her as the ultimate demon hunter?!

Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

A baby elephant. Or maybe a baby mammoth. Not too big. Something I can bring on a leash to Starbucks.

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?

Dark.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. It’s a completely non-religious holiday, where you gather and give thanks. Because there’s no talk of Heaven and Hell, you can say this makes it a demon-free holiday, although demons have been known to invite themselves to anyone’s table, at any time, and once seated, they are notoriously difficult to remove.

Q: What’s your favorite emoji?

The poop! I mean, come on. He’s got eyes! How cool is that?

Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Itzy’s age (17)?

That’s easy. A writer.

 

To learn more about Divah, visit www.susannahappelbaum.com/divah/

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New Picture Books for February!

Looking for a new and fun read? Need a new book for story time? Do you enjoy jumping in puddles and/or silly takes on classic nursery rhymes? If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a look at two new Sky Pony picture books published this month!

Puddle Jumpers by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Nancy Cote 

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It’s a rainy day in the month of May and Sam spots a rainbow, and then a puddle. A perfect spring puddle. His mother warns, “No! No jumping in puddles! You must keep clean today!” but Sam can’t stop himself from testing the water with his galoshes. And then the puddle invites him to play. The puddle whispers, “Jump, Puddle Jumper, jump!” and with that very first jump, Sam is off on an adventure of the imagination. He’ll be a frog in a pond, with a hat and some spots and a magic wand. He’ll be a crocodile with pink polka dots and teeth like blades, and a polar bear with purple polar hair. He’s going to jump, leap, dance, plunge, swim, and jump again. Sam is having so much fun in his puddle that even Mom can’t resist. With a leap and a thwump, she’s jumping too, cheering, “Jump, Puddle Jumper, jump!”

This happy picture book celebrates the simple, pure joy of jumping in a rain puddle. Nancy Cote’s cheerful illustrations are full of kid appeal, a perfect match to a story that captures the magic of being a child. Let your imagination take you on your own adventure the next time you encounter an irresistible puddle.

Aimed for children ages 3 to 6, this is a charming book about letting your imagination run wild and also about the joys children can find in even just a simple rain puddle. Encouraging kids to explore their outside world provides important developmental play for kids and parents will find the mom’s reluctance and then acquiescence a good reminder that adults need to enter the world of children in order to allow them to explore their world and to learn from it.

About the author and illustrator:

Anne Margaret Lewis is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than ten children’s books. She enjoys working with fun fictional characters and carefully weaving important lessons into her stories. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she lives with her husband and four children in Michigan.

Nancy Cote is a children’s book author and illustrator whose playful style has garnered her international attention. She is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, the AGA “Pick of the Lists,” the Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, and the Society of School Librarians International Honor Book. She is the author and illustrator of Watch the Cookie!, published by Sky Pony Press.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Skink by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Ana Bermejo 

There Was An Old Lady Who Gobbled a Skink cover

There was an old lady who gobbled a skink (a type of newt). And a worm and a pail and a line and an oar and much more in this hilarious book about a crazy fisherwoman who swallows all the essentials for a successful fishing trip. With the ever looming threat of “perhaps she’ll sink,” readers will hold their breath in anticipation as she gobbles her way through the tackle box and then the boat! With an already impressively full stomach, she reaches for just one last bite . . . but to find out how the story ends, you have to read the book!

A wonderfully humorous take on a classic nursery rhyme by Tamera Will Wissinger, accompanied by Ana Bermejo’s fun-filled illustrations, this story will delight children, adults, and all those who like fishing. It’s perfect for reading aloud and sure to be read (and perhaps even sung) again and again.

Intended for preschool-aged children, this silly story is sure to be a fun read-aloud both at home or at school/daycare. It’s also the ideal gift for kids whose parents or grandparents love to fish or to explore the outdoors and might even inspire a few to try fishing at some point (hopefully without gobbling any of the tackle!).

About the author and illustrator:

Tamera Will Wissinger is an up-and-coming poet and children’s author. Wissinger has a master’s degree in writing and is the author of two books for young people: Gone Fishing (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) and This Old Band (Sky Pony Press). Wissinger lives with her husband in Vero Beach, Florida.

Ana Bermejo grew up in the north of Spain. She studied art in Valencia—home of paella—and particularly enjoyed drawing goats, unicorns, and deer during her five years of university. She continued her art education at Saint Martin’s in London. She currently lives in west London, England, where there aren’t any goats, deer, or unicorns, but there are plenty of squirrels—and they are nice to draw, too.

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Sky Pony’s Stable of Authors: Kate Ormand/Kate Louise and GIVEAWAY!!

What is it like to be an author? How does a book go from acquisition to publication? Where can I get a copy of Kate Ormand’s Dark Days? Is there an actual sky pony at the Sky Pony offices? Are these questions you ask yourself on a daily basis? Never fear, we have the answers to almost all of these questions!

Sky Pony author, Kate Ormand, steps in to tell us about her experience with Sky Pony Press. Stay tuned for a GIVEAWAY at the end—the first of many!


It all started in February 2013, when senior editor, the lovely Julie Matysik, sent an offer through to my agent for my debut YA dystopian novel, Dark Days. Things have been moving fast since then as I went on to work with Sky Pony on a further five titles, both YA and picture books.

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Publishing was new to me when Dark Days sold, and I didn’t have much of a clue what to expect from that point. I reached out to fellow Sky Pony author, Rose Mannering, whose debut, Roses, was releasing about eight months before my own. She was farther along in the process and told me about her own experience. That was so reassuring, and Rose and I have stayed close friends.

When the time came for edits, I realized I didn’t really need to worry at all because Julie was so clear and helpful and guided me through every step as we got to it. There wasn’t a moment I felt like I didn’t know what was expected of me, and there was nothing I couldn’t email Julie about.

When I started writing, I knew I wanted to write young-adult fiction. I signed with my agent for a YA book and my first book deal was for that book. My second deal, however, was for a children’s picture book, and that was a whole new adventure . . .

Later in 2013, Julie sent offers through for two of my children’s picture books: Pierre the French Bulldog Recycles, illustrated by Bethany Straker, and The Upside-Down Fish, illustrated by Laura Matine. This was completely new to me. Writing picture books kind of felt like starting over again. It was scary, but exciting, too. I’m the kind of person who likes to know what’s going on, though, and, fortunately for me, Bethany had illustrated several Sky Pony titles before Pierre so I had someone to tell me what to expect again!

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So 2013 was a lot of fun and filled with exciting news and projects. I learned a lot about the industry and made some great friends along the way. I chose to write under different names, so I was spending time building up profiles and my websites for both. For YA books, I’m Kate Ormand; for picture books, I’m Kate Louise. You can still discover one through the other, even though they’re mostly kept apart. My YA novels are quite dark, whereas my picture books are quite sweet and good fun. It made sense to me to write under two names as I expanded my books and my brand.

Just before the release of Dark Days (June 2014), I got the opportunity to work with another, equally wonderful, editor at Skyhorse—Nicole Frail. I’d briefly worked with Nicole on Dark Days and knew we connected well. The new project I pitched her was a YA novel called The Wanderers, about a girl traveling with a shape-shifter circus. Nicole was so enthusiastic about this project from the start and knew how much it meant to me to get this published. And soon after submission, I received an offer.

Following this, Julie sent an offer on a third picture book I wrote called Tough Cookie, about a mischievous gingerbread man, which was illustrated by Grace Sandford. Tough Cookie was such a fun project, and it was great to be working as a picture book team again.

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I’m sometimes asked if I prefer one to the other: YA or PB. I don’t have a preference, really—they both have their charms, and they both have their tough moments. I’m sometimes asked how I switch between the two. I try to focus on one project at a time whenever possible, to get more involved and to be able to sink into that story without distraction from another in the back of my mind. And I’m sometimes asked how writing for one age group helps with another. I can sum it up this way: thinking more visually, working as a team, and patience!

Without Isabel (my agent), I doubt I’d have discovered the love of writing for such a young age group or would have met and became friends with illustrators Laura Matine, Bethany Straker, and Grace Sandford. And without Isabel, Julie, and Nicole, I wouldn’t be where I am now with my YA books, either. I’m very fortunate to be able to explore both genres with Sky Pony.

2015 was the “Year of Book Releases” for me. The three picture books released in February, March, and November respectively. The Wanderers came out in September. It was such an exciting year, and I got the opportunity to attend some great events associated with the books’ publications.

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The first event was in February at Waterstones Birmingham for the UKYA Extravaganza. Then I visited Paris for the Teen Author Smash at the American Library in Paris, where twenty-five authors were invited for readings, Q&A hot seats, books signings, and chats with librarians, readers, and writers. In August, I went to New York City (for the first time!) for Teen Author Reading Night. Chaired by David Levithan and held at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library, this event was comprised of eight authors who were invited for readings and a Q&A. I read from The Wanderers here for the first time, and Nicole came with some Skyhorse colleagues for support, which was so great! It was also the first time I’d met Nicole, and later that week I got to meet Julie and fab publicist, Cheryl Lew, when I visited the Skyhorse offices! I also met my agent, Isabel, for the first time as well. It was a really wonderful trip—with a lot of firsts!

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Being with Skyhorse Publishing throughout its growth has been really interesting. I’ve felt encouraged and in good hands since day one, but I’m enjoying watching the team grow and move toward exciting things now that they’ve been publishing books since 2011. And I love being a part of that growth, too. The Wanderers released with really great blurbs and trade reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, and VOYA, which I hadn’t had before, and that felt amazing. In November the book was honored as “Winner” in the “Fiction: Young Adult” category of the 2015 USA Best Book Awards! Tough Cookie also released with a great review from Kirkus, and both book trailers for Tough Cookie and The Wanderers were chosen as “Book Trailer of the Day” by Shelf Awareness.

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I love being a Sky Pony author and feel proud to be part of a hugely supportive team. Through writing for Sky Pony Press, I’ve met various members of the editorial and publicity team as well as fellow writers who’ve become amazing friends. We have a Team Rogue YA blog, set up by Ava Jae and Sarah Glenn Marsh, for YA and MG Sky Pony authors and now this blog, too! I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next and to working with Sky Pony again on my 2017 release, The Pack!


A Sky Pony Express Giveaway!

Interested in winning a copy of Kate Ormand’s Dark Days . . . and The Wanderers . . . and Tough Cookie . . . AND a variety of awesome Sky Pony swag? 

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Enter below to win: 

  • Gorillas in Our Midst poster,
  • A variety of Sky Pony book postcards and bookmarks,
  • A Skyhorse tote bag,
  • A copy of Tough Cookie by Katie Louise, illustrated by Grace Sandford,
  • A copy of Dark Days by Kate Ormand,
  • A copy of The Wanderers by Kate Ormand,
  • An advanced reader copy of Liars and Losers Like Us by Ami Allen-Vath,
  • A copy of Canned and Crushed by Bibi Belford,
  • An advanced reader copy of Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel, and
  • A copy of Jokes for Minecrafters: Mobs, Creepers, Skeletons, and More by Michele C. Hollow.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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#tbt: The Little Pea by Éric Battut

In today’s #throwbackthursday post, Sky Pony’s Editorial Director, Julie Matysik, has a tale to tell from way back in 2011 when Sky Pony was just starting out:

In September 2011, Sky Pony Press launched its inaugural list. On that list was one very special picture book—the first that Sky Pony ever published. The Little Pea, written and illustrated by Éric Battut, is a story about embracing differences, about wanting to be an individual, and about celebrating all that makes each of us unique.

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Detail from The Little Pea

I was grateful to be introduced to The Little Pea by an agent at The French Publishers’ Agency, who sent me a sample copy in the hopes that we might want to acquire English translation rights for our first list. I remember opening up the package and falling immediately in love with Battut’s simple yet poignant story and his elegant, minimalist illustrations.

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The poor little pea is laughed at by the other peas for being different.

After showing the book to both our creative director and our publisher, we quickly decided to acquire it for the list. Working with translator Sophie Pauze, we got the text in order and our production editor readied the book for the printer. The creative director and I decided to spec out the jacket, opting for a matte finish with spot gloss and a slight emboss on the title and image of the pea holding a peacock feather that graces the front cover.

Waiting for the books to reach out office felt like an eternity, but when that first advance copy arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. For it wasn’t just a new book off press—that is always exciting—but rather publication of The Little Pea marked the beginning of a wonderful journey in publishing children’s books under the Sky Pony Press imprint. It’s a journey that has led to our publishing close to one hundred picture books over the last five years.

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An advance copy of Sky Pony Press’s first picture book, The Little Pea!

And it all started with just one little pea who made a difference by standing out from the crowd.

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What’s Your Favorite Sky Pony Book?

Sky Pony Press has been publishing children’s books since Fall 2011. We have hundreds of wonderful books in print, each holding a special place in our hearts. It’s a difficult task to choose just one favorite book from our list—every single Sky Pony book is amazing in its own way. We challenged the staff to pick their favorites from our list of wonderful books and here’s what they had to say:

  • Sam Levitz, Assistant Managing Editor 

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Sam’s Favorite Sky Pony book: Canned and Crushed by Bibi Belford

Why Sam loves Canned and Crushed: “As someone who worked teaching middle school kids for 5 years I know how hard it can be to get your hands on a chapter book that holds their interest. Canned and Crushed is definitely one of those rare books. The narrator, Sandro, is a great role model for kids. He’s smart, funny, loves soccer, and is not afraid to put himself out there to help out his family. What’s great about this is that Belford doesn’t dumb things down for her readers. She respects the fact that a book should be relatable enough to hold a child’s interest, but also challenging enough to teach something new. Sandro uses a lot of big vocabulary words and while telling his story, makes sure to define those words in the text for younger readers that may not have learned these words yet. It’s reminiscent of my days reading A Series of Unfortunate Events and being really pleased with Lemony Snicket’s expectations of me to not get discouraged by new words. The plot is clever and interesting and you’ll be rooting for Sandro and his family the whole way through!”

  • Steven Sussman, Sales Director

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Steven’s favorite Sky Pony book: Watch the Cookie! by Nancy Cote

Why Steven loves Watch the Cookie!: “I love Watch the Cookie! because I love cookies! It has taught me to never let my cookies out of my sight . . .

Where’s my milk?”

  • Jason Katzman, Editor 

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Jason’s favorite Sky Pony book: Who Flung Dung? by Ben Redlich

  • Bill Wolfsthal, Vice President 

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Bill’s favorite Sky Pony book: Jackie and Me by Tania Grossinger

Why Bill loves Jackie and Me: “It tells a very personal story about a very important American, Jackie Robinson. And I was very fond of the author, Tania Grossinger.”

  • Amy Singh, Editorial Assistant, Arcade Publishing

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Amy’s favorite Sky Pony book: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur

Why Amy loves The Unhappening of Genesis Lee: “I loved the dystopian setting, Gena’s drive to recover her lost memories, and the twist of who the thief really is! I would personally love to have a Link bracelet to help me keep my memories close [and remember little things that I always forget]!”

  • Cory Allyn, Senior Editor, Night Shade Books and Talos Press

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Cory’s favorite Sky Pony Book: It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

Why Cory loves It’s a Wonderful Death: “I love a good, snarky book and It’s a Wonderful Death delivered in spades. My first impression as I was reading was “Hey, this is like somebody took A Christmas Tale, put it in a blender, and hit PULSE!” It has the morbidly amusing humor of a Tim Burton movie, and Death, an actual character in the book, is a twisted reinvention of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But like all great books, it’s also more than the sum of all its individual quirks. Underneath the politics and bureaucracy of author Sarah Schmitt’s vision of the afterlife is a poignant story that will sound very familiar to anyone who ever survived high school (and maybe looked back and wished they’d done things a little differently).”

  • Jake Klein, Publicist, Sports & Outdoors 

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Jake’s favorite Sky Pony Book: The Daring Prince Dashing by Marilou Reeder, illustrated by Karl West

Why Jake loves The Daring Prince Dashing: “Prince Dashing reminds me of a young me.”

  • Jody Faulkner, Manager, Special Sales

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Jody’s favorite Sky Pony book: My Body Belongs to Me illustrated by Dagmar Geisler

Why Jody loves My Body Belongs to Me:  “This book explores what children can do to keep well-meaning adults at arm’s length when it is uncomfortable for the child.  From the aunt who gives sloppy kisses to being tickled too much, this book says its ok to say no.  It is very positive, not scary book which sometimes these types of books can be.  I also like it because it sells so well! :P”

  • Stacey Fischkelta, Senior Production Editor

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Stacey’s favorite Sky Pony book: The Brick Bible for Kids by Brendan Powell Smith

Why Stacey loves The Brick Bible for Kids: “I believe that any book, especially children’s books, should teach the reader something. This book does just that. It teaches children the stories of the Bible by using a familiar toy to create images children would understand. The artistry in this book is beautiful and the message is simply delivered. The Brick Bible for Kids makes Bible stories accessible to many ages and makes the reading fun. I loved reading this book!”

  • Ronnie Alvaro, Editorial Assistant, Sports & Outdoors

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Ronnie’s favorite Sky Pony book: Gorillas in Our Midst by Richard Fairgray

Why Ronnie loves Gorilla’s in Our Midst: “As a little kid, I always dreamed that my favorite wild animals could live in the human world. Gorillas in Our Midst brings that dream to life, with hilarious instances of gorillas passing as human—except that is, when you give them a banana. Beautifully drawn and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is one of my favorite ways to relive my childhood!”


 

What’s your favorite Sky Pony Book? Tell us in the comments below!

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Amalie Howard Interviews Editorial Director, Julie Matysik

The process of taking a book from acquisition to publication is different for every book. What remains a constant in the process (or at least in Sky Pony Press’s experience!) is the presence of both an author and an editor to facilitate the process of turning a manuscript into a printed book. Julie Matysik, Sky Pony’s editorial director, has worked with many authors over the years. Amalie Howard, a Sky Pony author, stepped in to interview Julie and get some insight about what it’s like to be an editor at Sky Pony Press.

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Sky Pony author, Amalie Howard

Amalie Howard is the award-winning IndieNext author of Alpha Goddess, the Aquarathi series, and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Summer Read.

Amalie Howard’s books:

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Alpha Goddess by Amalie Howard, 2014
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The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard, March 2016
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The Fallen Prince by Amalie Howard, April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amalie Howard Interviews Julie Matysik:

Julie Matysik is the wonderful editorial director of children’s and education publishing at Skyhorse Publishing, and we are here to celebrate the inaugural launch of the fantastic Sky Pony Press blog! I was so honored to have been asked to conduct this interview. Not only do I adore Julie on a personal level, but on the professional side of things, she is also a tireless, talented, and driven editor whom I greatly admire.

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Julie’s first desk at Skyhorse’s previous office space, 2009.

As editorial director, Julie oversees acquisitions for Sky Pony Press, Skyhorse’s children’s imprint, and manages the Education category titles across the board. She acquires new and licensed titles for Sky Pony and handles manuscripts through all stages of production for the publication process.

Now on to the interview:

Amalie: Hi, Julie! You’ve been with Sky Pony from its inception, helping to launch the children’s imprint from day one. What inspired you to become an editor, children’s in particular?

Julie: Like many people in publishing, I have had a love of books and reading all of my life. In high school, I was that introspective kid who visited the library in the summer between grades and read every book on college reading lists and things like that. So when I went to college, I decided to major in English because, well, I would be able to read a lot. But I guess I had never really thought about how books came to be—probably because I was a bit of a book snob and would only read the “classics” or “tried and true” books recommended to me by college professors and didn’t think of publishing as a current industry. But as graduation drew nearer, I realized I didn’t know what to do with my English major. I met with a professor in the English department who suggested I take her Intro to Editing and Publishing course and that’s when it first dawned on me that I could work on books. What a novel concept! So after a few years teaching abroad and at a preschool in the Midwest, I moved to NYC and started to pursue a career in publishing. Becoming a children’s editor, however, fell into my lap somewhat, though I had toyed with the idea of working on children’s books when I first applied for jobs. When Skyhorse’s publisher decided to start a children’s imprint (this was after two years of my working at the company on adult nonfiction titles), I was happy to transition to a new focus. Everything sort of grew from that moment rather organically. And I’ve never wanted to look back.

A: That sounds like a match made in heaven to me. It’s awesome when you get to do something you love. So, how many years have you been involved in publishing, and what are some of your titles?

J: I’ve been working in publishing for seven years. I started as an intern/part-time assistant at a small boutique literary agency and then was hired as an intern and then editorial assistant at Skyhorse in early 2009. I’ve worked on so many books while at Skyhorse (you should see the index cards I keep for each book in my desk drawer!) so it’s hard to pick just a few titles. Focusing on the children’s list, I’ve acquired and edited author/illustrator Iza Trapani’s nursery rhyme books The Bear Went Over the Mountain and Little Miss Muffet; Beth Vrabel’s Pack of Dork series titles as well as A Blind Guide to Stinkville; Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones’s Gorillas in Our Midst (the first Sky Pony picture book to be picked up by the mass merch accounts); and, of course, your Indie Next Pick, Alpha Goddess.

A: That’s cool that you keep index cards for each book. It must be such a rewarding feeling, knowing that you’ve made so many author dreams come true. Including mine! As you know, I love being a Sky Pony author, but from your perspective, what makes working with Sky Pony so different?

J: Sky Pony takes a lot of the principals that our publisher, Tony Lyons, has set up for our parent company, Skyhorse, and puts them to great practice. We aren’t a huge imprint or publisher and we know that we can’t always compete in certain areas with the bigger houses. But we love seeking out those special authors and stories that deserve to be published. We aren’t afraid to take chances on authors and books that have been rejected by larger publishers because they were too “exotic” or not “commercial” enough. We are a forward-thinking publisher who isn’t too rooted in any one way of doing things. And we have such a small committed staff who loves what they do and who champion each book on our list. Sky Pony really does feel like a family in many ways, and I hope that feeling extends to our authors and the agents we work with.

Two Sky Pony Press picture books made it into the New York Times! Woot!
Two Sky Pony Press picture books made it into the New York Times! Woot!

A: Sky Pony absolutely does feel like a family, I agree, and having been one of those acquisitions those other publishers thought was too exotic, I am so happy that you give those kinds of books a home. Despite not being a huge imprint as you say, Skyhorse Publishing has had amazing growth over the past few years. What do you attribute this to, and what we can expect from Sky Pony in the coming months?

J: One word: Minecraft. Haha. But in all seriousness, our novelizations for Minecraft fans have opened incredible doors for Sky Pony, not only in the trade but also in the specialty and mass merch retailers. Sky Pony used to be a small imprint that very few people in and outside of the industry knew. We were publishing incredible books but still trying to find our footing in the market. Then along came this crazy little game called Minecraft and our novels for Minecraft fans and boom! Sky Pony books were everywhere, in large quantities. This has opened up the door for all of our amazing authors and books and we’ve seen an incredible rise in sales and distribution.

Sky Pony has some really exciting things coming up in the next few months, including starting a line of chapter books written by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Krulik and her daughter Amanda Burwaser. And you can bet that we’ll be on the lookout of the next big “trend” in kid’s books as well.

] Drowning in thank-you cards from a bunch of fourth-grade Minecraft fans!
Drowning in thank-you cards from a bunch of fourth-grade Minecraft fans!

A: That sounds awesome. My three children are addicted to Minecraft, so that’s not surprising, and they adore their Sky Pony Minecraft books. So, let’s talk about the editing side of things. In your opinion, what makes a good editor?

J: That’s a hard question to answer, actually. I likely edit differently from my colleagues, but I don’t think that makes one of us better or worse than the other. In general, I do think an editor has to be impassioned about the project she or he takes on—to really connect with the story, the characters, the voice, and the author. An editor must be the author’s advocate within the publishing house and work tirelessly to make sure her or his voice is heard. I believe a good editor works collaboratively with authors and doesn’t just tell them to “do something this way” or else. An editor should be willing and able to adapt to the author and story that she is working on at any given moment, knowing that the next book she edits might be a completely different process than the previous one. And that’s okay.

A: Wow, it sounds like you wear a lot of different hats and have to be flexible in your process, depending on changing needs. I can personally attest that you have been a wonderful advocate for me. What do editors look for in both authors and submissions?

J: Personally as an editor, I look for an author who clearly wants to be published but who isn’t afraid of being edited. I want someone who feels comfortable working with me and who is willing to accept that her or his manuscript may need some extensive revisions and fine tuning. I don’t want an author who thinks her or his book is perfect as is without any editorial insight. In terms of submissions, I want a manuscript that is engaging, that has a great sense of place and characters, and that treats both major and minor characters as important and integral to the storytelling.

A: I think that’s the beauty of a having a good editor—one who can see potential in the bones of something that may need work. And, of course, an author who is willing to work toward that shared vision to make that book the best it can be. What kind of fiction do you primarily acquire?

J: Since Sky Pony has recently grown to include five editorial staff members, I’m acquiring less fiction than I once did. But for the few novels I am acquiring, I look for stories that have a good dose of diversity, that explore “issues,” and that are set more in a contemporary space, though that’s not always the case (as you know with Alpha Goddess and other books you’ve published with Sky Pony).

A: Contemporary does seem to be a hot button these days, but glad to hear you are open to others and still occasionally acquiring! When you open a manuscript, what do you hope for in the first few pages?

J: I want a killer first sentence—a sentence that is going to propel me to the next and then the next. And that doesn’t mean I need intense action right up front; rather, I want something that pulls at my very core and gets me engaged to want to keep moving forward with the book. I want a first sentence or two that sticks with me throughout the rest of the story. Then, beyond that, I want to become almost instantly invested in at least one character—main or not.

A: I could write an essay on fabulous first sentences, so I hear you. There’s nothing better than that first powerful sentence that just hooks into you. So, let’s talk books. What are some subjects or some styles that you don’t see tackled often, and what would you like to see more of?

J: Fortunately, I think the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign has opened a number of doors for writers who are tackling difficult subjects, who are writing about people who are marginalized in our society, and all that. Those are the books that I’m most drawn to and love seeing more of. I think you know this about me, given our history of working on your Rama and Sita retelling, but I think bringing more stories from the East into the Western market is something that I’m still not seeing a lot of, but would like to. In picture books, I want to see more stories where the main character can be a person of color or different ethnicity without the story having to be necessarily written with that in mind.

A: Yes! I love that you’re drawn to more nontraditional ideas and was so grateful that you saw something special in my Ramayana reimagining. Writers of all walks are no longer afraid to tackle complex subjects and are trying to incorporate more diversity in their works, so it’s fantastic to hear that you are actively looking for that. So say an editor falls in love with a manuscript and takes it to the acquisitions board for approval, why/how/when could a prospective manuscript be turned down during the acquisitions process?

J: This is one of my least favorite things about the job. A manuscript can be turned down at acquisitions for a number of reasons: 1) sales may not think the book will be successfully sold or won’t have a large enough market; 2) it may come to light through a meeting that a book is too similar to another book already published; or 3) the publisher or others making these decisions may just simply not like the concept or the comparable title sales figures. Turning down a manuscript might happen at any stage—early on after an editor reads the first 20 pages, or when an editor discussed the concept with fellow editors or the editorial director, or at acquisitions meetings.

A: I can see how that would be difficult. Rejection is rough on both ends. Once a manuscript passes the internal approval stages, could you briefly explain what an author can expect once his or her novel has been contracted for publication?

J: Every publishing house has its own timeline and processes, but generally, an author can expect to start working with an editor on either larger conceptual edits or line edits or both after a book has been contracted for publication and the manuscript officially delivered. An author will be involved in the cover design process (seeing comps and probably hating many of them until finding that perfect gem, or loving one comp right up front, only to be told that the sales team or a buyer has asked for a completely new design). An author will likely have a back-and-forth dialogue with her/his editor regarding the edits and will be reading and re-reading the manuscript in many different forms (manuscript, copy edited manuscript, and typeset pages) before the book is finally submitted to press. It can be a whirlwind process or a slow and, sometimes daunting, journey, depending on scheduling and the amount of work the manuscript needs.

A: Ah yes, I remember getting my cover concept for Alpha Goddess and absolutely falling in love with it. I’m a big fan of revisions and getting on the same page with my editor to hone a book into something even better than what I’d submitted. Speaking of revisions, on your end, what is the hardest element of editing a newly acquired manuscript?

Amalie and Julie at the launch party for Alpha Goddess in Larchmont, NY.
Amalie and Julie at the launch party for Alpha Goddess in Larchmont, NY.

J: Getting started. Editing a book, for me, is like sitting down to compose an essay for a college course. Your head if full of ideas, but it’s hard to get everything in order, to find that perfect way to begin. That’s what’s hard for me on every single manuscript that I acquire and start working on. But once I get over that first or second page, then I’m usually good to go!

A: Much the same for us writers! Getting started is always the hard part. What are some of the common misconceptions about the editing process?

J: That editors are only going to line edit for grammar and usage. Sometimes a manuscript is quite clean and that’s the bulk of what editors end up doing. But most times, editors will be pointing out inconsistencies in plot or characterization, will be making suggestions for major cuts, additions, or shuffling around of scenes to make the book more cohesive, and will be picking apart or suggesting sentence rewrites on almost every page. Be prepared to get your manuscript back with a lot of tracked changes and different colors. But don’t be scared!

A: Yes, all those tracked changes can be daunting, but once you start working through them, it becomes easier. Deep breaths and one page at a time, I say! Overall, what do you like best/least about being a children’s book editor?

J: I love coming to work or sitting at my kitchen table at home and allowing myself to enter the mind of a child or young reader and to get a bit lost in that part of myself that still remembers what it was like when books were full of pictures and when reading independently felt invigorating (like getting your driver’s license at sixteen). That’s what I love the most.

What do I love least? Having to send rejection letters to children’s authors. They are all so sweet and seem to get dejected much easier than adult authors (though I could be generalizing, so my apologies).

A: I love that escapism, too, and I can see how saying no to someone would be tough. I don’t envy you that part. Let’s talk about something nicer. What are some of your favorite books (that you have not edited)?

J: You’ll laugh, because I actually read a lot of adult books outside of publishing children’s books, so most of my favorites are adult fiction or nonfiction. But some of my favorite kid’s books that I haven’t edited are Hot Jazz Special by Jonny Hannah, Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats, A Story, a Story by Gail E. Haley, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

A: That’s not surprising given you are such a devoted lover of books, and I’m only laughing because you tell me I have minions in my basement, but it sounds like you have the same—little book reading clones. What fantastic choices! I haven’t read a couple of those, so I’m excited to check them out. Before I let you go, let’s talk big picture. What changes over the years do see as positive for the publishing industry? And are there any changes that concern you?

J: I think the fact that more diverse books are being written and published for children is a huge plus for the industry. I think the industry has stopped its fear mongering about ebooks and how they’ll be the death of the industry—that’s clearly not been the case. But I am concerned about the closing of bookstores, both large and small. Shopping for books online just doesn’t provide the same experience as going into a store, touching a cover, feeling the weight of the book in your hands, and paging through a book’s contents to see if it might be the perfect read for you or someone you love. I’m not sure what the closing of bookstores means for the industry, but I have to believe that people will keep reading—and authors will keep needing editors.

A: Thanks for sharing your insight. I agree that the growth of diverse books is a wonderful plus, and I firmly believe that authors will always need good editors. I’ve honed my writing skills since my first book, but nothing will replace the contribution of a smart editor. So, last question: what kind of content can we expect to see moving forward on the Sky Pony blog?

J: We have a lot of great stuff planned for Sky Pony Express! We’ll have days dedicated to picture books, middle grade, and young adult books; we’ll have posts about the Sky Pony team and the inner-workings of the imprint; we’ll have guest posts from authors, Sky Pony staffers, and possibly other industry people; we’ll have giveaways; we’ll have #tbt posts; and we’d love to hear from readers of the blog what they’d like to see happening here. It’s an evolving process and one that we want our whole Sky Pony extended family to feel connected to and a part of in some way.

A: I adore the name! Sky Pony Express sounds so fun! Julie, thank you for your time, and readers, please feel free to share your comments and thoughts below. We would love to hear from you. Thank you so much, and happy reading!

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The Sky Pony Express: Meet the Ponies!

Welcome to skyponypressblog.com!

Also known as The Sky Pony Express. During our work days we spend a lot of time talking about books: our authors’ books, our favorite books from childhood, books we’d love to see published, and more. We really like books here, and after some careful thought, some more book discussions, and a lot of coffee, we came to the conclusion that we want to bring the book talk to our readers and our authors. We want to create a space online to connect with all of you and for you to get to know us, our authors, and our books!

Some things you will see on The Sky Pony Express:

  • Giveaways!
  • Author Q&A’s
  • A peek at upcoming books
  • Flashbacks to backlist Sky Pony titles
  • Author guest posts
  • Much, much more!

Meet the Sky Pony Team:

It takes a team of hardworking individuals to bring Sky Pony books to the hands of young readers—individuals who are still children at heart and have a silly sense of humor, of course. Luckily, the Sky Pony team is full of editors, publicists, designers, and children’s literature enthusiasts who love what they do and don’t have any plans to grow up in the foreseeable future.

Julie Matysik, Children’s and Education Editorial Director

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Julie Matysik hails from Madison, Wisconsin, and earned her BA in English from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She began her publishing career as an editorial assistant at Skyhorse Publishing in 2009 and helped launch Sky Pony Press in fall 2011. She now oversees the imprint as editorial director, working with a fabulous team who love publishing children’s and young adult books. Julie’s favorite picture book from childhood is The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin, simply because it made her laugh after each page turn.

Weird fact: Julie was featured in a segment on her local news TV station as a two-year-old, caught singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” a cappella.

Alison Weiss, Editor

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Growing up steeped in the legends and stories of Sleepy Hollow, New York, Alison Weiss learned to keep an eye out for the Headless Horseman before she even learned to read. As a kid, it was not unusual to find her huddled under the covers on a Saturday morning with a stack of books, rather than downstairs watching cartoons. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English, and interned at Random House, where she fell in love with editing for children and teens. After six-and-a-half years at Egmont USA, she joined Sky Pony in 2015 as an editor, focusing on chapter books, middle grade, and YA. Alison’s favorite books growing up included Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Eloise, Anne of Green Gables, and Paddington. As a grownup, her favorite book is Barkbelly.

Weird fact: On a second-grade school trip to a bank, she was locked in a bank vault. (Okay, they didn’t actually lock the door, but it felt that way.)

Adrienne Szpyrka, Assistant Editor

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Adrienne Szpyrka has been with Sky Pony since the beginning of 2014. She’s Canadian, grew up in Michigan, and came to New York most recently from Boston, where she did a master’s in Publishing and worked at The Harvard Coop bookstore. She reads mostly middle grade and YA in her spare time, but her walls at home are covered in picture book art. If she had to recommend one book she loves, it would be Letters to Anyone and Everyone.

Weird fact: Adrienne once had a hedgehog named Snuffles who used to escape at night and explore. She still isn’t sure how he got down the stairs, but thinks there might be a story there.

Rachel Stark, Assistant Editor

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Rachel Stark grew up in a rural Maryland county known for being home to more horses than the entire state of Texas. When her dreams of becoming a jockey—inspired by Joanna Campbell’s Thoroughbred series—fell through (alas, she is 5’10”), she attended Goucher College in Baltimore and studied English, creative writing, and photography. She realized early on that she liked working with books more than writing them, so she began her career in children’s publishing in 2010 with a role in marketing. She joined the Sky Pony team as an Assistant Editor in 2015 and loves helping authors bring great books into the world.

Weird fact: The parents of Rachel’s kindergarten classmates used to fight over her at play-date scheduling time because her incredibly active imagination would keep their kids busy(and quiet) for hours at a time. She is still coming to terms with the fact that she may never be that popular again.

Kylie Brien, Editorial Assistant

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Kylie Brien spends her days in New York City, her nights in Connecticut (where she’s lived for most of her life), and her weekends in New Jersey. All the commuting on the train affords her plenty of reading time. She never leaves the house without at least two books on her and a notebook to jot down any creative ideas she may have. She received a B.F.A in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in 2014 and joined the Sky Pony Press team in June 2015. Kylie has great aspirations to travel to Wonderland, Oz, and Hogwarts before settling down in Neverland (most likely she’ll be a pirate).

Weird fact: Kylie’s favorite toy when she was younger was a life-size Pink Power Ranger doll that she dragged around with her for years. Correspondingly, before deciding on a career in publishing, Kylie wanted to be the Pink Power Ranger when she grew up.

Cheryl Lew, Associate Publicist

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Cheryl Lew is a California native (San Francisco and Los Angeles) and New York resident. After deciding that the film industry wasn’t quite right for her, she moved to New York City to pursue a Master’s in Publishing from NYU. She is currently an Associate Publicist for Skyhorse, working with mostly Sky Pony books but also handling Skyhorse’s parenting and education titles. Cheryl’s favorite picture book from childhood is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd—a classic! She’d always have her parents read it during bedtime despite the piles of other books she owned.

Weird Fact: Cheryl never had any furry pets growing up… but she did have a lizard and several goldfish!

Joshua Barnaby, Production Editor

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Joshua L. Barnaby is a New Yorker who has been working at Skyhorse Publishing since the tail end of 2014. He earned a B.F.A in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, MA where he focused on writing drama, studying British literature and learning the applications used in print publishing. With a strong love for reading comic books and YA novels, Joshua takes great pride in typesetting and designing the interiors for Sky Pony Press as the Production editor for all Sky Pony Press titles. He loves stories about the development and performance of personal identity and explorations into mythology, psychological, fantasy, and science fiction.

Weird fact: Joshua’s mutant powers is to perfectly recall facts and scenes from the cartoon shows he watched growing up.

Winston Sparkles, Imprint Mascot

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Winston Sparkles was created by Sky Pony illustrator, Ged Adamson. After prancing out of Ged’s imagination, Winston lived in the Forest of Dreams where he received his BFA in Mascoting until he ultimately decided to make his home on the Sky Pony Express blog.

Weird fact: Winston is fluent in horse, human, and duck but duck is his first language.

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