Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 19, 2020

Book Giveaway: MAE THE MAYFLY by Denise Brennan-Nelson

Denise Brennan-Nelson has a new picture book, MAE THE MAYFLY, illustrated by Florence Weiser and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Denise and Florence, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


When Mae the mayfly first hatches she learns she’ll have just a day to enjoy the world. But soon a hungry trout has her racing for cover! As she peeks from her hiding spot and notices some of nature’s most beautiful sights, she realizes she must live in the moment and experience everything the–sometimes scary–world has to offer. This tender story reminds us all–young and old–to be present and mindful in all we do.


In 2017, I was inspired to write about a mayfly when I found out they live, on an average, only one day.

ONE DAY? I was fascinated. Most of my stories begin with a question – or in this case – many questions. “How do you live your entire life in ONE day? Where would you go? What would you do? How can I make it a fun and suspenseful story for kids, while capturing the beauty that each day offers us?” So many questions!

But first, I had to find out more about this insect that I knew so little about. (Up to that point I thought of them only as a springtime nuisance and fly-fishing bait.)

I started digging and discovered that while mayflies are indeed extremely interesting, it was their life cycle that reeled me in and set the basis for the story: a mayfly begins as an egg, then hatches into a nymph. It then lives as a nymph for one to three years before emerging from the water as an adult. Once they have molted – the only insect known to molt twice! – they only have about a day to live.

In the research phase, I watched a video showing how some nymphs resist the pull to come to the surface when it is time to shed their outer covering and expose their wings. After spending years at the bottom of the dark river, why would they resist? I wondered. Why would they want to stay at the bottom of the river when they could break through the surface into the light, and fly – if only for a day?

Ah, fear.

The pieces were coming together. I would write about a mayfly and how beautiful and meaningful one day could be . . . as long as we don’t let fear get in our way. The idea had gone from an “egg” to something more. It was now a nymph at the bottom of the river. But I wanted to give it wings and so, the “journey” began!

Initially, the story was not written in rhyme:

Mama dropped her eggs

In the freshwater lake.

Down, down they floated

Where they landed among

The plants and rocks.

Soon they hatched . . .

And burrowed

in the mud.

One day,

Mae stirred.

She felt a pressure

And a pull . . .

It tugged at her to come

To the top.

She wanted to stay

where it was safe

And comfortable.

But the pull was strong

And so she let go.

Up, up, up, she went

Out of the darkness

Towards the light.


And then I tried it in verse:


Mae’s life began

One sunny day

On a beautiful river

In the month of May.

With a kiss from Mama

And a warm tender hug,

Mama said goodbye

To her sweet baby bug.

“You have your whole life.

A day, perhaps more.

Don’t waste it my dear.

Go see what’s in store!”

“Don’t squander a moment

There’s so much to see.

It’s a beautiful world

I’m sure you’ll agree.”

I even wrote a funny version for my kids about Mae being stubborn and not listening to her mama. That version didn’t end well for Mae, because, well, she didn’t listen to her mama! My kids got a kick out of it.

There is so much that goes into a story. So many changes. Big ones. And small ones. All crucial, though, to get to the best version. Before she was Mae, she was Martha. From Martha to Marvin. Then I changed it to May. And then May became Mae.

At one point, I thought I had captured the essence of the story . . . I was anxious to share it with my publisher. When I submitted it, they politely declined, “no thanks.” It wasn’t there yet. It was sweet, but it didn’t have depth. I hadn’t nailed it. UGH.

So, I gave it a rest. The idea was there but I needed to start over. This is not a happy time for an author, but I believed in this story with my whole being and I wasn’t giving up. I dealt with Mae’s fear and her subsequent hiding. And I spent hours, weeks, months picking apart every single word. Because with insects and words,

“Small things make a big difference.”

And it paid off. In June 2018 I resubmitted it and in August I learned that Sleeping Bear Press wanted to move forward with it. I signed the contract in September. I saw the first sketches of Mae in May 2019 – fitting, don’t you agree?

The book was released in March of 2020 amid a pandemic. It wasn’t the launch I had envisioned but I believe in Anne Lamott’s wise words, “If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its only little lighthouse.”

On the surface, this story is about appreciating the simple things and living life to the fullest. But it’s also about empathy, fear, and gratitude. Someone recently said to me, “It’s as if you knew this was going to happen when you wrote the story,” which touched me deeply. I hope it will be a lighthouse for others.

In the story, Mae is confronted with a difficult decision between fear, or courage and compassion.

When she bravely chooses the latter, the reward is significant.

And then an echo on the wind that blew,

Two simple, precious words: Thank you.

As the author, I believe Trout is expressing his gratitude to Mae for saving him. Or maybe it’s Mae expressing her gratitude for her beautiful life and the lesson she learned from Trout.

Sometimes it’s best to let the reader decide.


Denise Brennan-Nelson is an award-winning author of over twenty children’s books including Leopold the LionSomeday is Not a Day of the Week, and the popular Willow Series. She wrote her first book, Buzzy the Bumblebee, after discovering that aeronautically, bumblebees should not be able to fly. She felt it was a wonderful way to inspire people to “bee-lieve” in themselves and their dreams. Denise also shares her enthusiasm for reading and writing in unique school presentations across the country where she encourages both adults and children to tap into their imaginations to create richer, fuller lives.

In addition, Denise serves as a board member on the committee for The Community Foundation for Livingston County.  In doing so she is able to help identify and advise on the needs of the community where she resides with her husband, Bob. They have two children, Rebecca and Rachel, and one dog, Bella who is much more than just a hound dog.


Florence Weiser is an Illustrator and graphic designer currently based in Belgium. She lives and work in a fairytale trailer in the midst of a magical garden, where I gather most of my inspiration!

She mostly works for the cultural sector, children’s illustration, publishing, press and NGO’s.

Most of her clients are based in Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg.

Denise, thank you for sharing your book and Journey with us. The story, the rhyme, and the illustrations work perfectly together. It’s an inspiring story that teaches children and adults to make every minute count. I really like the back matter. I didn’t know Mayflies have been around longer than the dinosaurs – over 350 million years. I’m sure kids, parents, and teachers will love this book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. what a beautiful premise for the book, and beautifully told


  2. What a lovely book! I’m a subscriber.


  3. Cool concept and it IS appropriate for today. The pandemic might even help your sales! (said the subscriber)


  4. You had me at the cover! Adorable! Congratulations! Can’t wait to read this one. 🙂

    I will tweet this and I follow your blog by email, Kathy.


  5. Hope to win! Thank you for the opportunity!


  6. What an inspiring book! And some great writing advice. Thank you Denise.


  7. Congrats, Denise and Florence! (I’m a subscriber.)


  8. Hi Kathy, I love the wonderful inspiration and that “what if” prompt that was a catalyst for this story. I subscribe, shared on FB and twitter and reblogged.


  9. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    A beautiful story that reminds us to appreciate the moment. Comment for a chance to win a copy.


  10. This looks and sounds like a great book! I love the background of the story and the illustrations! I tweeted about your giveaway (@LilCountry_Lib) and posted about it on Facebook. I am now following your blog via email, too. I just found you today on Twitter. I need to go back and read your previous posts. I have obviously been missing out from the several I have already read. I love being able to share author and illustrator bios with my K-6 students to try to make a connection between what they are doing and how meaningful it can be and how authors and illustrators are real people just like them. 😉 Thanks for the giveaway!


  11. Subscriber here. This looks like a really cute book. I always enjoy hearing from writers about their book journeys. Thanks for the post.


  12. What a wonderful journey for your book – and for Mae! Thank you for sharing the Anne Lamott quote. Your book shines! (subscriber)


  13. This book looks just wonderful!! Wish I could share it with my students but school has been made online for the rest of this year. 😢 Also LOVE the illustrations! I do subscribe to the blog and spread this fab post on Facebook and twitter. Congrats on a great book! 😊


  14. What a fun book! Carpe Diem! Wishing you both the best of success. Kathy — I am an e-mail subscriber. Thanks so much for all you do!


  15. Hi Kathy, Thank you for offering this delightful book. It would be a great gift for my little grandsons. I subscribe to your blog. I’m going to share this book on Instagram. My account is @dolci_studio and I prefer that program.


  16. I would have thought that a one-day life was too sad to write about, so I’m fascinated by what you’ve accomplished. The illustrations are beautiful, too. Thanks for sharing the story of how your manuscript evolved. (Kathy, I’m a subscriber.)


  17. What an interesting behind the scenes story that led to a story. Thanks for sharing. I’m sharing on Facebook.


  18. This looks fabulous and I loved reading about how the book transformed. I enjoy subscribing to your blog.


  19. What a beautiful book! And I think the timing is perfect. Thank you for sharing. (Kathy, I’m a subscriber)


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