Tuesday, March 8, 2016

LSLL Blog Tour: Arthur Zarr's Amazing Art Car by Cathey Graham Nickell- Author Interview!

Arthur Zarr is a quiet man with few friends. His life is rather plain, and his car is plain, too. But not for long! When Arthur gets a creative idea to add everyday objects to his car’s plain exterior, he’s noticed for the first time. Neighbors and other bystanders add their own artistic flair to the car, too. What happens when he enters his bedazzled vehicle in the town’s art car parade? Mr. Zarr finds happiness and makes friends by building an amazing art car. In this whimsical story, children learn about recycling, community, friendship building, and the power of imagination. The book includes a “History of Art Cars” page for readers who’ve never heard of this creative form of artistic expression. It also has a subtle ABC theme, as Arthur Zarr adds objects to his art car in alphabetical order! This is the first—and so far, the only—children’s book published about an art car. Suitable for all ages but especially ages 4-8. Illustrated by Houston graphic artist, Bill Megenhardt.

And now for an interview with the author!

What was your inspiration for ARTHUR ZARR’S AMAZING ART CAR?

I don't drive an art car myself, but I love snapping photographs whenever I spot one. The concept for Arthur Zarr came to me one morning during rush hour while driving my teenage son, Will, to school. Just for fun, I keep the back of my SUV covered with various bumper stickers. I joked with Will that I need to be a polite driver and obey the laws of the road because the stickers make my car recognizable. Will laughed at me, insisting that no one ever notices me and certainly not my car! During the drive, Will's comment got me pondering what else—besides bumper stickers—might make a car memorable? That question triggered me to think about art cars, and by the time I finished my morning carpool, the concept for Arthur Zarr's Amazing Art Car was born. I visited bookstores and researched the topic, but I couldn't find any books about art cars specifically written for children. There were a few interesting photographic art car books for adults, but no children's picture books, no imaginative made-up stories. This discovery made me want to write and publish the book even more. Arthur Zarr's Amazing Art Car is the only book on the market for children about art cars, and people--especially school art teachers--seem to be excited that I created it.

How long have you been writing?

This might sound cliche', but I've been writing since I was able to pick up a pencil and write. Throughout my childhood, I used paper, staples and ribbon to make homemade books on a variety of topics. There was Susan and the Snail, and The Handsome Guy, and Sherloc Hemloc, Private Eye -- to name a few. The fun thing is that I still have them all! I saved every one, and it's fun to go back and flip through them. In high school, I worked on our newspaper staff, called the High Life, and ended up writing a regular column that featured a different student each week. At Baylor University, I majored in Journalism and worked for the Lariat, which was our daily campus newspaper; I served in various paid newspaper staff positions for a few years at Baylor. After college, I was a reporter for the Times in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is my hometown. Over time, my career shifted into the field of public relations, and in that capacity, I continued my writing (newsletter, brochures, news releases, speeches, etc). Pretty much every job I've ever had was some sort of writing position. Now, creating children's books is the most fun I've ever had with my passion for writing.

What book(s) do you wish you could have written?

Well, of course, all the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. I think she is a genius! But I also really enjoyed The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, because it was her first break-out novel. I was so impressed with the wonderful job Stockett did in writing the book from different points of view, and in creating such memorable characters.

Which literary character is most like you?

I wish I could answer this question by saying something very important-sounding, like Jo March from Little Women, or Lizzie Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. But the truth is, I'm quite similar to dear old Amelia Bedelia! It's become a running family joke, and my mother even calls me, "Amelia" at times. I don't do this on purpose, but I take things very literally. So, like Amelia, if you ask me to dress the turkey, for a split second I might think you want me to put clothes on it. I usually figure it out before I embarrass myself, but not always. The literary character I loved and admired the most as a child, however, was Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, because I wanted to live in an upside-down house with secret drawers and compartments hidden all around. Plus, she had such interesting "cures" for all the problem children, and I thought it seemed wonderful that she smelled like cinnamon spice cookies.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been?

Tuscany, Italy. Ever since I saw Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, I've wanted to go there and stay in one of those amazing villas with the centuries-old stone walls.

 Praise for Arthur Zarr's Amazing Art Car:
“Nickell’s book is a treat for sight, sound, and sense, for readers and artcarfans (no, you won’t find the word in your dictionary just yet, anyway) of all levels.”
Lone Star Literary Life.
“A wonderful story of art, opening up to the joys of life, and celebrating the artist in everyone.”—Lynette Wallace, Executive Director, Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Houston, Texas.
“Cathey Nickell’s book will help fuel the desire to make positive changes in our world through artistic endeavor.”—Alicia Duplan, Assistant Director, Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas.
“Cathey’s story. . . is both engaging and warm. By the end, I found myself rooting for Mr. Zarr. I even felt a small twinge of disappointment when he didn’t win the trophy. Artcar Nation highly recommends this book. Give it to all the children you know.”— Paul McRae, Artcar Nation.
ALSO AVAILABLE AT THESE BRICKS & MORTAR STORES: BEER CAN HOUSE, 222 Malone St., Houston, Texas (weekends only).  BERINGS Baby and Kids Dept., 3900 Bissonnet St. and 6102 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas. BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOKSTORE, 224 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado. BLUE WILLOW BOOKSHOP, 14532 Memorial Dr., Houston, Texas. BRAZOS BOOKSTORE, 2421 Bissonnet St., Houston, Texas. CONTEMPORARY ARTS MUSEUM, 5216 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas. THE JUNG CENTER BOOKSTORE, 5200 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Texas. TOY FAIR at Pierremont Mall, 4801 Line Ave., Shreveport, Louisiana.
Cathey Graham Nickell is an author, mother, and wife living in Houston, Texas. She is best known as the seeing-eye-person for her little blind dog named Cricket. Cathey launched her first children’s picture book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, in November 2015. She doesn’t drive an art car herself, but she has a habit of covering the back of her SUV with bumper stickers! Cathey also snaps pictures of art cars—which are plentiful in Houston—when she sees them. Her all-time favorite car was the bright-yellow Volkswagen Beetle that her grandmother drove in the 1970s.  Cathey draws from her experience as a former newspaper reporter and public relations professional. After taking a few years off to raise four children, Cathey started freelance writing again in 2012 when a non-profit organization called the Institute for Spirituality and Health hired her to research and write its six-decade history. Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare: A 60-Year History of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center was published in 2015. The book is used as a marketing and communications tool, and all financial proceeds benefit the Institute (not Cathey). Cathey graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Journalism in 1985. She earned a Master of Arts from Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 2013. Find her online where she blogs about her writing and publishing adventures.
GIVEAWAY!!  Three winners will each win 
$20 CASH & an Author and Illustrator 
Signed Copy of the Book!
Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!
3/7     Hall Ways Blog  – Review 3/8     Because This is My Life Y'all – Author Interview
3/10   Books and Broomsticks -- Review
3/11   The Librarian Talks – Promo
3/12   The Page Unbound – Review
3/13   Texas Book Lover – Guest Post
3/14   The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
3/15   Missus Gonzo  -- Review
3/16   A Novel Reality  -- Author Interview
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