A Two-Debut Interview: Joy Keller Interviews Alison Goldberg About I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES

LoveYouForMiles_biblio.jpgJK: Congratulations on your debut picture book, Alison! It’s exciting to see I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES out in the world. How did you come up with the idea for this adorable book?

AG: Thank you, Joy! As preschoolers, my children loved vehicles. We played with toy excavators, set up many windy train tracks, and admired every construction site we passed. I remember my kids staring wide-eyed when they saw planes out of the big glass windows at the airport for the first time. I started to understand what vehicles meant to my kids: powerful, large, and mysterious characters full of metaphor.

At night, the “How much do you love me?” game turned into a comparison of our love to the size and strength of all things that go. After coming up with many of these examples for my own kids, I thought it could be a fun take on a love book.

Check out the book trailer here.

That trailer is so much fun! I notice it features all different types of things-that-go. Do you have a favorite?

bird nest on craneI’d have to go with cranes. They seem impossibly tall for transporting to construction sites. While writing I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES I observed a crane in my city and noticed that a bird had built a nest at the top! It reminded me of the sweet truck book, ARE YOU MY MOTHER? By P.D. Eastman.

My kids have always loved that book and its pictures of the “Snort.” Speaking of pictures, what was it like to see Mike Yamada’s illustrations for the first time?

I was thrilled! I love the movement in his images. Mike creates such unique perspectives. And the bears are adorable! I’m also really grateful that the child bear’s gender is not defined but left open to the reader’s imagination. Many vehicle books are created with boys in mind. I hope I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES can be a book for any child who loves vehicles, bears, or being told just how much they are loved.

As a female author who’s also written a book featuring trucks, I think it’s wonderful that your story can be for any child! Now let’s talk about your process for a minute. What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Competing projects. I have a long list of stories I’d like to work on (thank you to Tara Lazar’s Storystorm for getting me into the habit of compiling them!). Sometimes I find it hard to decide which one to tackle next.

One of the things that I admire about you (other than your writing talent!) is your dedication to giving and activism. Can you tell us a little about what you’re doing to celebrate your book launch?

One of my very first jobs was as an organizer for the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger at the Food Research and Action Center. At the time, our campaign materials included a unique image of children reading while surrounded by food. This art helped raise support for our work to strengthen nutrition programs serving kids and was donated by Tomie dePaola!

So when I found out that my first picture book would be published—a love book for children–I knew I had to find a way to contribute to this campaign. To celebrate my book launch I’m donating a portion of proceeds to the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, and I’m planning some special book events in 2018 to raise support for this work. I’d welcome other children’s book creators to get in touch if they’re interested in getting involved.

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We’ll have to talk more about that later! It sounds like a great opportunity.You’re also part of a new blog called M is for Movement. Can you tell us about that, as well?

M is for Movement is a new group blog focused on activism and social justice in children’s literature. My collaborators include Janine Macbeth, Innosanto Nagara, and Robert Liu-Trujillo, and together we aim to build a collection of articles, interviews, and reviews about children’s books that put social justice values into practice.

We launched in October, and already we’ve connected with a number of children’s book creators and librarians who are interested in writing for the site. I’m excited to help build this community, draw attention to powerful books, and learn from many voices!

Thanks, Alison! It’s been wonderful learning more about I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES and all your social justice work.

goldbergalisonframeAlison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter @alisongoldberg.
kellerjoyframeJoy Keller is the author of MONSTER TRUCKS (Henry Holt) and the upcoming MISS TURIE’S MAGIC CREATURES (The Innovation Press, 2018). When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching elementary students how to write. She lives in Fairport, NY with her husband, two children, and several cats. You can visit her at www.joykellerauthor.com or find her on Twitter @jrkeller80.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Debut Interview – Joy Keller and Alison Goldberg

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Alison Goldberg interviews debut author Joy Keller about MONSTER TRUCKS illustrated by Misa Saburi (Godwin Books/Henry Holt, 2017).

 

Alison: Congratulations on your debut! Before we discuss MONSTER TRUCKS, I see in your bio that you have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. What was that like?

 

Joy: I drove a pickup truck that was converted into a surrey. I’d pick up customers and drop them off to pick blueberries. The farm was forty acres. Sometimes the surrey also doubled as a rescue truck, so I’d have to drive really fast over the bumps in the field. It was a fun job, and a chance to learn to drive a stick shift.

Alison: And great research for writing a truck book! If you could visit the world of any picture book, which would it be?

Joy: If I had to pick a character that I would want to hang out with, it would be Otter from the OTTER books by Sam Garton. Otter is so funny and gets into so much trouble. She reminds me of my own kids. If I was just looking at pictures, I would choose the very old-school fairy tale worlds created by Trina Schart Hyman. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON books from when I was a kid have amazing illustrations. I’d like to walk through those worlds.

Alison: Where did the idea for MONSTER TRUCKS come from?

Joy: When my kids were little, my daughter only liked Halloween books and my son only liked truck books. We would check the same books out of the library all the time. I wondered why there wasn’t a book combining the two. It could be called MONSTER TRUCKS! Once I had the title, the story followed.

Alison: MONSTER TRUCKS is such a perfect blend of these two themes. Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from childhood?

Joy: My parents did a really good job making elaborate homemade costumes for me. One year, I was the Queen of Hearts. My mom copied every little detail of a playing card onto the front and back of my poster board costume. I didn’t want to take it off at school, but I couldn’t sit in it, so I stood for much of the day.

Alison: What’s your favorite truck?

Joy: When I was a kid I loved the street cleaner with a vacuum tube used to suck up debris. I called it the elephant truck.

Alison: That sounds like the start of another truck book. As a teacher, do you ever share your picture book manuscripts with your students?

Joy: I do. I also share my revisions. Kids often think that when you are a writer you only need to write something once, and I like to show them that even published writers need to rewrite stories many times. I share my rejection letters, too, so they can see that part of the process.

Alison: How will you celebrate the release of MONSTER TRUCKS?

Joy: My release party is taking place in an ice cream shop called Moonlight Creamery. They’re going to rename all of their ice cream flavors to match the book, including a flavor called “Tire Tracks.”

 

Alison: How fun! You have a few other picture books coming out after your debut. Can you tell me about them?

 

Joy: I’m so excited about MISS TURIE’S MAGIC CREATURES (Innovation Press, 2018), a book about a pet store that sells mythical beasts.

I also have a nonfiction book about fungus coming out in 2019 called THE FUNGUS AMONG US (Innovation Press, 2019). My son developed a fascination with mushrooms when he was little, so we go on hikes and get pictures of different varieties. They’re cool to look at and learn about, but I don’t especially like to eat mushrooms!

Alison: I look forward to reading these books. Thanks, Joy! Congratulations!

 

Joy Keller isn’t a monster, but she does have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. Her debut picture book, MONSTER TRUCKS (Henry Holt, 2017), is all about monsters and the vehicles that match their personalities, from the skeleton crew that fixes roads to the werewolf who digs, digs, digs. Joy currently teaches elementary students of all ages and lives in Fairport, NY with her husband, two children, and four cats. You can visit her at www.joykellerauthor.com or find her on Twitter @jrkeller80.

 

Alison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter @alisongoldberg.

Two Debut Interview – Alison Goldberg and Andrea Loney

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Alison Goldberg interviews debut author Andrea J. Loney about her two new picture books, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! and BUNNYBEAR.

Congratulations on both of these wonderful books, Andrea! Before we discuss them, your bio says that you once ran away to live with the circus… What was that like?

Yes, after I got my MFA, I ran away with Big Apple Circus in New York so I would have something to write about besides being a student. I met amazing people (and animals) from all over the world, learned the secret to making magic every day (hard work and dedication), and started my entertainment career with an intriguing resume (“you worked at a WHAT?!). It was one of the greatest adventures of my life and I suggest that everyone run away with a circus someday.

That sounds like a very inspiring setting! If you could visit the world of any picture book, what would it be?

Ooh, good question! Right now it’s a tie between dancing and partying with the dinosaurs in Kelly Starling Lyons ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR, or knitting and singing sea chanteys with the mateys in Diana Murray’s NED THE KNITTING PIRATE. Tough decision.

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TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! is the story of a real photographer. How did you find your subject?

Ever since I was a kid, I loved looking through vintage Victorian-style African American photographs. Years later I read a biography of James VanDerZee and discovered that even though he’d been taking pictures since he was a child, he didn’t get “discovered” as an artist until he was in his 80s! That’s when I realized that I just had to find a way to share his amazing comeback story with children.

The depth of research shines through on every page. What was your process like? Did you uncover particular details that surprised you?

Thank you! The book covers about 85 years of his life, so there was a lot of material to wrangle. I read everything I could find on him, I looked at hundreds of his photographs, I spoke to people who’d met him — including his widow, and I even ended up searching through public records online to fill in some of his family details. The most surprising things that I found in the research is that James VanDerZee was raised in a fairly integrated town where black and white people attended school and church together and that he became the unofficial town photographer at age 15.

JamesVanDerZee3

His story is so compelling. What are some of your favorite picture book biographies?

Oh, there are so many that I adore! I love FRIDA by Jonah Winter, ME, JANE by Patrick McDonnell, JIMI SOUNDS LIKE A RAINBOW by Gary Golio, THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA by Chris Rachka, MANFISH: A STORY OF JACQUES COUSTEAU by Jennifer Berne, NEO LEO: THE AGELESS IDEAS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI by Gene Barretta. SOME WRITER! THE STORY OF E. B. WHITE is not exactly a picture book but it is one of the most delightful biographies I’ve read. I really enjoy picture book biographies that are designed to help the reader experience the world of the story through the subject’s unique point of view.

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TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! won the 2014 Lee & Low New Voices Award.  This writing competition is an important part of efforts to increase diversity in children’s publishing. What has this award meant for your book?

At first, the award meant that I received nicer and personalized rejection letters! But the Lee & Low New Voices Award has definitely brought more attention to my writing. It got the attention of my agent, Jill Corcoran, and after she saw my other work she decided to sign me. The award has definitely put this book on the radar for many teachers, librarians, booksellers and more.

Earlier this year you released another terrific picture book, BUNNYBEAR. How did you get the idea for the story?

I was just brainstorming silly ideas with a friend and I blurted out, “A bear who feels like he’s really a bunny.” But then I thought about all of the times in my life and my friends’ lives when we didn’t feel like we would ever fit in, and how we struggled to just be ourselves.

I love when Bunnybear says, “You just look one way on the outside and feel another way on the inside. That’s okay.” This is such an important statement for children to hear and read, again and again.

The poet E. E. Cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” I think it’s important for children to know that even if they don’t always fit into the neat little boxes that society has already laid out for them, they’re still okay. Maybe they’re made to stand out instead. I also remind them that if they just keep being themselves, they’ll eventually find someone who likes them just the way they are.

What’s next for you?

My next book, Double Bass Blues, comes out in 2019 with Random House Knopf. It follows the adventures of an imaginative young black boy as he carries his double bass home through various neighborhoods, surrounded by the music of the city.

And I am always, always, always working on more picture books.

I look forward to reading them. Thank you, Andrea! Congratulations!

 

 

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Andrea J Loney’s picture book BUNNYBEAR, (Albert Whitman & Company, January 2017) is about a bear who believes in his heart that he’s really a bunny. Her upcoming debut picture book, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low Books, Spring 2017), is the 2014 New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance, and her third picture book DOUBLE BASS BLUES shares the adventures of a young black boy carrying his double bass home from school (Random House Knopf, 2019). A community college instructor with an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Andrea is also a proud volunteer for Reading to Kids and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She lives in sunny Los Angeles, California with her devoted family, embarrassingly spoiled pets, and towering stacks of picture books. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

goldbergalisonframeAlison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter.

 

Thanks for supporting and celebrating 2017 picture book debuts with us! You can learn about more great debut authors, illustrators and books in our Creator and Book galleries. Keep in the loop on all the excitement by following @picturethebooks on Twitter and Instagram, too!