Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 11, 2021

Book Giveaway: MAYA’s TREASURE by Laurie Smollett Kutscera

Laurie Smollett Kutscera has written and Illustrated a new picture book, MAYA’s TREASURE, published by Peter Pauper Press. Available now in bookstores. Laurie has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

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 other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Laurie.

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!


Keeping close the words and memories of her grandmother, a young girl is determined to craft a treasure from cast-off bits of shell in this beautiful picture book.

Each morning when the sun rises, Maya and her sister, Alita, go to the shore to collect the beautiful seashells the waves wash up on the beach overnight. The sisters scrub their finds until they sparkle like stars, then string them together to make beautiful jewelry they can sell to the people in their island village. When Alita discards shells she deems too broken or ugly, Maya rescues them and remembers the words of her grandmother: ”Even the tiniest nub can be quite beautiful. You just have to find the magic in it.” But can Maya turn the cast-off shells into something truly special?


In 2016, I began writing Maya’s Treasure—a story inspired by a dear friend, Enid, who saw beauty in everything. She had just passed away and I was filled with so much grief and emotion, I needed to put something down in words.

I began writing about a determined young girl who finds beauty and purpose in what others deemed damaged. The larger message being finding magic in the unexpected, and the power of an idea.

Maya’s Treasure was the first story I brought to 12×12 when I joined in 2017. I continued to work on it with the help of the forum, then joined a smaller critique group, where I continued to edit and edit some more. Everyone’s feedback, both authors and illustrators alike, really helped bring this story full circle.

Somewhere around the 3rd draft I began working on the sketches. I had an idea as to what Maya would look like, but, not having a model at the time, the sketches of the characters seemed a bit rough and inconsistent.

While most of the sketches for the dummy came together pretty quickly, I struggled to find the right medium. At first, I tried playing with colored pencil. Still without a model, I tried to focus on the environment and color palette.

But I wasn’t happy with the overall outcome. I really needed to find a model‑ this would help me decide what medium to best work in. Not long after, I scheduled a hair appointment the same day my hairdresser Nellie’s granddaughter was visiting the salon for the day. I couldn’t believe my eyes! This 9-year old sitting in the chair next to me looked JUST like what I had envisioned Maya would look like. With Nellie’s permission, I took a few shots of her with my phone, then called her the next day and invited myself over to her home to take more photos of Camila. With the help of Nellie, her daughter Nicole, and Camila, I recreated all the poses I had sketched for the dummy.

That photoshoot was incredibly helpful. I reworked all my sketches using Camila as my model, then decided pastel was the way to go. Just to be sure, I took a couple of pastel classes to brush up on my skills and hopefully learn a few new techniques. As luck would have it, a former art director that I had worked with years ago, now an award-winning pastel artist, was giving pastel workshops in her home studio. What luck to have rediscovered Jane McGraw-Teubner! She is a master and I’ve learned so much from her!

Over the next few months I created several pastel paintings that were included with the dummy, and I began subbing Maya’s Treasure in mid 2018.

If I got a few rejections, I’d go back and see what editing might help the next round. In total, I submitted and revised for about two years.

In early 2020, I won a critique through Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest with Tina Wheatcraft Cho, author of Rice From Heaven, and The Ocean Calls. With all my manuscripts still in the early stages, I decided to ask her thoughts on Maya. Tina was wonderful! She offered me a few suggestions that really gave the story the extra polish it needed. In May of 2020, with a newly polished manuscript, I decided to sub to Peter Pauper Press. I loved the quality of their books and thought Maya’s Treasure might fit their list. Excited and hopeful, (isn’t that the best feeling?) I snail mailed a printed dummy off and turned my attention to other projects.

But the summer proved to be a difficult one. Out of the blue, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and had a lumpectomy in August.  While I was recovering, our beautiful sweet rescue dog Cody, was also diagnosed with cancer— the kind that spreads quickly. A week later, he was unable to stand on his back legs. We knew it was just a matter of days.

It was at this moment I received an email from Peter Pauper Press- If Maya’s Treasure was still available, they would love to publish it.

I don’t think there are any words to describe the joy and sadness that washed over me. Joy in that Maya’s Treasure, the story inspired by my dear friend, had finally found a wonderful home—and grieving that we were going to have to say goodbye to our loving dog, Cody.

At the same time, Matt Belford an agent at Tobias Literary was very interested in another project I had submitted, and offered me representation. I signed with him, he negotiated Maya, and I signed a contract with Peter Pauper Press. The following day we had to put Cody to sleep.

His loss was palpable. I was grateful to have a project to focus on. I started working on the illustrations for Maya’s Treasure which coincided with a few weeks of radiation treatments. Work was moving along well the first week, but radiation is cumulative and by the second week I was suffering from 2nd degree burns on my side. I had to stop working on the art, but with the March deadline quickly approaching, I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t be able to meet it.

It was a challenge, but soon I was able to get back on schedule. I had created a complicated sketch for the climax of the book that I was excited to get started on, but as it turned out, it was a bit more complicated than I thought. I ended up redrawing it several times in order to get the right scale for the definition I was after. I ended up creating three large panels about 40”x 30” which reduced down to 8.5 x 11. And once all the pastel work was completed, I scanned them into Photoshop and added finer details. Sometimes switching between Photoshop and Procreate. The work was finished by mid-March  and was sent to the designer. I received the pdf proof towards the end of April of this year.

Peter Pauper Press is  known for their high-quality production. I was beyond excited to work with them because I knew they would do a wonderful job. And I was right! When the book arrived last week, I cried happy tears. The jacket was finished in matte with gloss varnish on the title, and the endpapers aligned perfectly with the jacket fold. Maya’s Treasure is everything I hoped for. Enid, I’m sure, would be proud.


Laurie Smollett Kutscera was born in New York City, NY and studied fine art and children’s book illustration at Queens College. Her love for art, storytelling, and most of all those stories representing characters who discover hidden strength flourished throughout her graphics design career, leading her to illustrate Ravita and the Land of Unknown Shadows.

Maya’s Treasure, her second solo project after middle-grade novel Misadventures of a Magician’s Son, also shares a story inspired by her long walks on the beaches of Long Island. Laurie lives on the north shore of Long Island with her husband, where she continues to bring stories to life through art. Laurie is available for virtual visits for schools and other groups.

Laurie, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love what you have done with this book. Love the illustrations. They are beautiful. Perfect for a book that shows the beauty in the world. I am so glad your acceptance letter arrived on a day when life was weighing you down. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. All I can say is “I want this book!” Congrats Laurie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words, Lizzie!


  2. Such a beautiful book! I love shells and the beach, and seeing this story of young girls collecting and creating is wonderful. Congratulations, Laurie!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Angie!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This book is a treasure! I can’t wait to find it and read it. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Danielle!


  4. You found the perfect model for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Natasha, I certainly did!


  5. What a great message, and so beautifully delivered too. I’d love to have a copy.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks for the chance to win, have a great day!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carl! That makes me smile.


  6. A beautiful picture book premise and a courageous story behind it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Barbara, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story.


  7. I bought this and want to say thank you to Laurie for creating such a beautiful picture book and for sharing the heartfelt journey that brought Maya’s Treasure to publication.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claire, Thank you for buying Maya’s Treasure! Im so glad you enjoyed it!


  8. This beautiful book is set at my happy place and I love the heartwarming message. I am an email subscriber and shared:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Danielle, Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the color palette that so beautifully depicts this island location! Thank you for sharing your book journey, Laurie. I’m looking forward to reading MAYA’S TREASURE.

    Kathy, I shared on twitter and et your blog daily.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Judy!


  10. Gorgeous illustrations! I tweeted this, and I’m including a link on tomorrow’s Creative Juice on

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Andrea, Thanks so much for your lovely words, and thank you for including the link on Creative Juice. I will check it out!


  11. This looks like a beautiful book. Thanks for telling me about it. I subscribe to your blog and I tweeted.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much Rosi!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a beautiful looking story. And a well-inspired one from the sounds of it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Marci!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Laurie your illustrations are so compelling to look at. I love this story. I grew up NYC, too and moved to Long Island. I spent so much time on the beach and love discovering the beauty in shells. What an amazing tribute to your dear friend. I look forward to sharing this story with my students at the after school program at the Boys and Girls Club. I will also post on FB and Twitter. Stay Healthy and Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Penny, Thank you so much for your lovely note, and for sharing Maya’s Treasure at the Boys and Girls Club. Is this group on Long Island?


  14. I love this book! It reminds me so much of walking the beaches of Florida when I was a teenager and my family traveled there from Ohio for the first time. I can still feel the sand sifting through my fingers as I hunted for shells every morning!


  15. This looks like such a beautiful book. Congratulations! Love the story of your inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks so much Christy!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you Kathy for sharing the story behind Maya’s Treasure with your followers! Its always a pleasure being here. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
    Warmest Wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m so in love with this book, Laurie…and your illustrations are amazingly beautiful. What a fabulous story behind the story peek you gave us – to discover the perfect ‘model’ for your character in your nail salon…oh my gosh! And hurray for the #50PreciousWords opportunity with the wonderful Tina Cho!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This Beach says this one’s a treasure! Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I am on mission to help Women find their Identity and Respect, and make them their Favourite person in the world by making them best version of themselves.


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