Two Debut Interview – Ariel Bernstein and Hannah Barnaby

ihaveaballoonIn today’s Picture the Books Two Debut interview, debut author Hannah Barnaby interviews debut author Ariel Bernstein about I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017)!

 

Hannah Barnaby: Congratulations on your debut, Ariel! What was the initial inspiration for I HAVE A BALLOON and the characters of Monkey and Owl?

Ariel Bernstein: I was at my first SCBWI conference, listening to Laura Vaccaro Seeger talk about her book, GREEN. I started to think of colors and the image of a red balloon popped into my head with the idea of two characters who both wanted it, which was based on a lot of interactions my kids have had when one has a tempting object! When I got home, I went into their rooms and found stuffed animals of an owl and a Curious George doll. I figured an owl and monkey would go together pretty well.

owl and monkey

HB: They certainly do! And I think most kids (and parents!) can relate to that sudden burning desire for something you never knew you wanted. As Monkey says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny big red balloon!” Was there something you desperately wanted as a child? (And did you get it?)

AB: For a long time, we didn’t have a television in my house. Luckily my best friend lived across the street and not only did she have a television, but she also had cable. So I was at her house quite a lot! My parents eventually got a television when they realized the value of renting movies.

HB: I bet a lot of kids will be shocked to hear that you survived life in a household with no TV! Now, let’s talk about collaboration. When I talk to people about writing picture books, they’re often surprised to hear that I had very little direct interaction with the illustrators before the book was published. Was that your experience, too? What about afterwards?

AB: I have the good fortune of being paired with Scott Magoon on this book. He’s had an incredible career so far as both an author and illustrator, and I never imagined talking to him about the illustrations while he was working on them because it’s completely in his hands and the editor’s. I’ve gotten to know Scott a bit from touching base during publication and he’s as nice as you’d expect! And it’s been fun to tag each other in our promotion of the book on social media as the pub date gets closer J

My experience with Mike Malbrough, the illustrator for our chapter books, WARREN & DRAGON, has been a little different. I know Mike personally from a local writers group that we’re in, as well as Picture The Books. Because we meet up in person, sometimes I’ve gotten to see some sneak peeks of sketches which is very cool! And I get to hear about the behind the scenes work of what he does. As an author-only it’s really interesting because usually it’s such a mystery.

HB: So you’ve experienced varying degrees of collaboration between your first two books. Writing picture book texts when you aren’t the illustrator comes with some challenges, but it also comes with a lot of fun surprises. When you saw Scott Magoon’s illustrations for BALLOON, were there things you didn’t expect? Was it difficult at all to shift from your vision of the story to his?

AB: The biggest surprise was the lemur character at the very end! It’s such a perfect way to end the story, as it leaves the reader guessing what could happen next. I love all the details that Scott brought to the story from his imagination and how he interpreted the text.

The only adjustment I made was that I imagined reading the story a certain way based on how page turns might go. The layout of the book ended up being a bit different, so the beats in how I read the text out loud has changed. But I get a great reaction from kids so I’m very happy with it!

HB: I know there’s another Owl and Monkey adventure coming our way (yay!). Can you give us any inside scoop about WHERE IS MY BALLOON?

AB: WHERE IS MY BALLOON? is about what happens when Monkey loses Owl’s balloon, and is desperate to act as though everything is fine. It’s scheduled for September 2018 and I’m hoping it will elicit many giggles from readers!

HB: Your first chapter book is coming out next year: WARREN & DRAGON’S 100 FRIENDS. Congratulations! How is your writing process different for picture books and longer stories? Is one easier for you than the other?

AB: Thank you! Writing the first draft of picture books is much easier than writing the first draft of a chapter book, no doubt because it’s so much shorter. But when revising it’s the opposite. I could write thirty or more versions of a picture book before I’m happy with it, but only need to revise a few times for a chapter book. I think the revising is harder with a picture book because every word has to be perfect. There’s a bit more leeway in chapter books in getting from the beginning to the end.

HB: Well, here’s hoping we get LOTS more books of all kinds from you, Ariel!

 

bernstienarielframe

Ariel Bernstein is a picture book, chapter book, and short story writer. Her debut picture book is I Have a Balloon, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017.) Monkey desperately wants Owl’s balloon and tries everything to get what he wants—this is not a book about sharing. Ariel’s debut chapter book, Warren & Dragon’s 100 Friends (Viking Children’s, Spring 2018) is a modern-day CALVIN AND HOBBES-esque tale involving a dreamy boy, his smarty-pants twin sister, and his vain dragon companion. You can find Ariel online, or on Twitter @ArielBBooks.

 

barnabyhannahframeHannah Barnaby is a former children’s book editor and independent bookseller, and served as the first Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. The author of two acclaimed young adult novels, Hannah makes her picture book debut with Bad Guy, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Simon & Schuster, May 2017), the story of a little boy who learns that being a bad guy is awesome…but it can come with consequences. In June 2017 comes Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), in which two friends journey to outer space and the deep sea and find that the best place of all is somewhere in between. Hannah lives with her family in Charlottesville, VA, where she teaches creative writing to students of all ages. You can find her online at http://www.hannahbarnaby.com, or on Twitter@hannahrbarnaby.

 

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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: Hannah Rodgers Barnaby and Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Michelle Schaub discusses Garcia & Colette Go Exploring with debut author Hannah Barnaby.

garcia and colletteIt’s summertime!  What better way to capture the anticipation and excitement of summer break than with Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, released at the beginning of June.  Hannah’s book traces the exploits of two energetic and adventurous friends, Garcia and Colette.  Unfortunately, the pair can’t agree on whether space or sea would make a better destination, so they go their separate ways to explore. But they quickly discover that they each left the most important thing behind…and that their two favorite places have more in common than they thought.

MS: Hello Hannah! Let’s launch this interview adventure with a few warm up questions.  Garcia and Colette both have very definite opinions on their favorite place to explore. If YOU could choose to explore the world of any picture book, which world would it be? Why?

curious gardenIt almost depends on the season, doesn’t it? Now that we’re deep in the throes of summer, I think the lush landscape of Peter Brown’s THE CURIOUS GARDEN would be the perfect place to escape and wander. I don’t have a trace of gardening ability, myself, but my husband and my mother-in-law are wonderful at it and I get to reap the benefits!

 

MS: Garcia and Colette each set off on their own, but they both grow lonely for company.  Growing up, did you have siblings?  Did you ever wish for time alone or did you crave company?

I was the oldest of three, and the only girl, so I definitely valued my time alone! It wasn’t unusual for me to spend an entire weekend hiding out in my room and reading a stack of books. But some of my fondest memories are of romping around outside with my brothers, learning to use a pogo stick and climbing the rope ladder to our treehouse. That balance of together and alone is still what works best for me. And now I have three kids of my own!

MS: I love the idea of finding a balance between together and alone time.  I’ve found that pets can help you feel “together” even when you are alone. Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.

A parade of cats, starting with Merlin and Gandalf (who were named by and inherited from family friends), and we always had them in pairs, for maximum entertainment. My first solo pet was a turtle named Harry, who didn’t last long. I might very well have loved him to death. My brother Jesse had a little gray dove gerbil named Sheila (he named everything very seriously—his teddy bear was called Michael). I always wanted something more exciting, but then I babysat for a family that had a pet monkey and I quickly realized that there’s a lot to be said for pets who are quiet…and don’t require diapers.

MS: I can imagine that taking care of a monkey would be quite a job.  Speaking of jobs…Garcia blasts into space like an astronaut. Colette dives into the deep blue like an oceanographer. Besides the adventurous job of being an author, what other interesting jobs have you had?

Almost all of my jobs have had something to do with books and reading: library assistant, preschool teacher, indie bookseller. But even the exceptions were good for gathering stories. All through college, I worked at a drugstore and it was fascinating to see what combinations of items people bought. After college, I worked in a law office as a foreclosure paralegal—I sort of accidentally took the advice of a wise college professor and started right away with a job that showed me what I didn’t want to do. That spurred me on to move to Boston and get a degree in children’s literature, which led to an internship at Houghton Mifflin where I worked for six years as an editor.

MS:  With all of your book-related jobs, I imagine you’ve done A LOT of reading.  Can you share your favorite first line of any book, any genre?

Even though I’m writing picture books now, novels were my first love, as a reader and an editor and a writer, and I’ve always been partial to the first line of Dodie Smith’s I CAPTURE THE CASTLE: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” The entire book is a sustained journey through another world, just as the best novels always are, and that line immediately sets the tone.

MS: Thanks for answering those warm-ups with an explorer’s spirit.  Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Garcia and Colette go on quite a voyage, literally and emotionally, in this book.  Can you describe your own voyage in creating Garcia and Colette Go Exploring?

I first had the idea for Garcia and Colette about five years ago—I attended a dinner for prospective graduate students at the University of Virginia, where my husband works, and I sat between an astronomer and a marine biologist. As I listened to them speak about why they chose those fields of study, I started to hear parallels in their language and their characterization of outer space and the deep ocean. By the end of the dinner, I had tuned out everything else and was thinking my way through a rough draft.

At that point, though, I wasn’t an experienced picture book writer and I was still learning how to write concisely—I think the first draft of Garcia & Colette was about twice as long as the finished book (which is around 620 words). It took a few more drafts to tap into the simplicity of the story so the parallel structure could shine through. My agent, Linda Pratt, patiently waited for me to figure it out and I finally did, on a writing retreat in the summer of 2014. I sent her the new version by email and she called me about an hour later and said, “You did it.” (And then I did a little dance in the airport.)

MS: Both of your characters pack specific items, including peanut butter sandwiches, to prepare for their journeys. What tools would you suggest prospective writers pack for their own writing exploits?

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten was from Tim Wynne-Jones, who told me not to fetishize anything about the writing process. Very few of us have lives that allow us to write at the exact same time every day, or only use one kind of pen, or a certain scented candle. It’s important to know what works for you but also to be flexible about how you work—I’ve drafted picture books and novel scenes by talking into my phone while driving, or writing in a notebook during my daughter’s soccer practice.

MS: Great advice!  (I’ve definitely taken advantage of waiting for soccer practice as writing time myself.) For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

My favorite part of reading Garcia & Colette to kids is the moment when they recognize the pattern in what Garcia and Colette are writing. There’s always one little boy or girl who can’t help but call out, “They’re saying the same things!” Those moments of decoding and discovery are absolutely what make books so totally magical . . . and why I feel so lucky to be writing them.

Well, Garcia & Colette is definitely a magical book and readers who discover it are lucky indeed. Thanks for sharing your writing adventure with us, Hannah!

barnabyhannahframeHannah Rogers Barnaby is a former children’s book editor and indie bookseller, and was the first-ever Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. Her debut young adult novel, Wonder Show, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and her second novel, Some of the Parts, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and was named a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year for 2016. Hannah makes her double picture book debut in 2017 with Bad Guy, illustrated by Mike Yamada, and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring, illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Hannah writes and teaches creative writing in Charlottesville.

schaubmichelleframeMichelle Schaub is a children’s author, poet, and teacher. Her work appears in the anthologies And The Crowd Grows Wild: A Global Gathering of Sports Poetry and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations. She is also the author of the Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge, 2017.) Michelle Schaub teaches middle school language arts at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she shares her love of poetry with her students. When she’s not teaching and writing, Michelle loves hiking, biking, and exploring farmers’ markets. You can see more of her work at www.michelleschaub.com.

Two Debut Interview – Lori Richmond

 

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Camille Andros discusses PAX AND BLUE with debut author/illustrator Lori Richmond.

pax-and-blue-cover

 

PAX AND BLUE is illustrator Lori Richmond’s authorial debut (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017). Pax is the littlest everywhere he goes. In school. At playtime. On the train. Then Pax meets a pigeon at the park—he names him Blue and makes a friend who knows what it’s like to be small. And understanding each other can lead to the best friendships. You can purchase Pax and Blue now, or ask for it at your favorite bookseller.

 

CAMILLE: Hi, Lori!  I thought we could take a page out of Cece Bell and Lauren Castillo’s pro book and have a conversation like they did on Phil and Erin Stead’s Number Five Bus blog.

Which brings up several of my favorite things…Cece Bell, Lauren, and the Stead’s. It doesn’t get much better than those four, does it? You are lucky enough to know Lauren right? When did you guys meet?

 

LORI: Yes! Lauren was a former student of my husband’s at School of Visual Arts MFA program. But the first time she and I personally connected was at her reading of CITY CAT at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. 

CAMILLE: Ahhh…the Brooklyn connection. Nice! CITY CAT is adorable. It reminds me a bit of YOUR darling new book PAX AND BLUE!

Do you have favorite authors and/or illustrators that inspire you and your work or PAX AND BLUE specifically?

LORI:  I know, Brooklyn is everywhere, especially in kid lit. I absolutely love Bernard Waber’s LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE. Lyle is this big green thing on every page that stands out against all the neutral backgrounds. I wanted PAX AND BLUE to be a modern version of this. Since the story is about the emotional connection between two friends, I wanted them to really stand out on every page and have their surroundings recede. The background people and environments all visually blend together in the same shade of purple-y gray to allow the eye to go right to Pax and Blue. Was that answer too long?

 

CAMILLE: Not at all. I love it! I love to hear the process/reasoning behind the story and the art. I’m not an illustrator but the art has always been my favorite part of picture books. I love LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE and I love how you incorporated the elements you loved from it into PAX AND BLUE.

Do you remember CRICTOR by Tommi Ungerer? I remember staring at those pictures for what seemed like hours. I was fascinated by the idea of a friendly helpful snake.

How does your process work? Do you come up with the story first and then art or does an image come to you that you create a story around?

LORI:  The story always comes first. Even if the full narrative isn’t there, there is some idea or basic outline in place before I begin drawing. I admire those artists who live with characters for years in their sketchbook and have a lightning strike. That never, ever happens to me. It’s usually not even raining. Writing is hard.

CAMILLE:  I think so too. The only time I’ve ever had a lightning strike was when I was a senior in high school and I hadn’t finished an AP English assignment to write a Thanksgiving poem. My subconscious must have worked on it all night because I woke up early the next morning and wrote the weirdest, wackiest, poem in about one minute flat about decapitating a Thanksgiving Turkey. My teacher read it to every class, and I was so proud. I wish I knew what happened to that poem.

Someone asked me this question once and I thought it was interesting. If you could take credit for writing/illustrating one picture book already out there, which one would it be and why?

LORI:  Fun question! I really love THE CARROT SEED by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson. It is deceptively simple with spare text and simple drawings of figures without environments. But the message of never giving up on what you believe in is so universal and timeless.

CAMILLE:  Yes! It’s the deceptively simple books that are some of the best. I could go back and forth picking your brilliant brain like this every day, but I should let you get back to creating beautiful books.

I’ll leave you with this one last question. If you could tell anything to your six-year old self what would you say?

LORI: “Lori, when you are in 5th grade, you will win the school spelling bee on the word ‘bivouac.’ This will happen after a several-round final battle against a kid named Billy. It will be an incredible triumph that you will continue to share with people when you’re 40.”

CAMILLE:  I can’t think of a better note to end on. Thanks Lori!

Now, everyone should go check out PAX AND BLUE available wherever books are sold!

richmondloriframeLori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book author-illustrator. Her first solo book, Pax and Blue (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), released February 2017. Her second solo book, Bunny’s Staycation (Scholastic), will debut in 2018. Lori is also the illustrator of A Hop is Up! (Bloomsbury) and two more books coming in 2018. As a former contributing editor and media spokesperson for pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump, Lori has appeared as a sought-after expert on all things baby on TODAY, Good Morning America, CNN, and more. She lives and creates with her family in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Lori at www.LoriDraws.com and on Twitter @loririchmond

 

androscamilleframeCamille Andros is the author of Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, her picture book debut, illustrated by Brianne Farley (HMHKids/Clarion, March 2017). She loves asking questions and won first place in the school science fair when she was in Kindergarten. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and six children who know a little something about being squished. Visit Camille online at www.camilleandros.com on Twitter @camdros, and Instagram @camilleandros.

 

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Two Debut Interview – Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Julie Segal Walters discusses FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET with debut author Michelle Schaub.

FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET hit the shelves just in time to join all the spring flowers, fruits, and veggies that will soon start popping up at local farmers’ markets! Michelle’s book follows the adventures of two new friends and their canine companions as they discover how much there is to love at the market. Through eighteen lively poems in a variety of formats, and gorgeous illustrations from Amy Huntington, the farmers’ market experience comes alive! The only thing missing is the crunch of a fresh, juicy apple!

 

JSW: Hi Michelle! Since today is the first day of spring, let’s start our conversation with some ice breaker questions. (Ha! See what I did there?!) If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

MS: I’d definitely move into Toad’s cottage in Frog and Toad are Friends.  Arnold Lobel is my all-time favorite author-illustrator. His drawings are so cozy and nostalgic. I’d cuddle up by Toad’s fireplace with a cup of tea, a plate of cookies, and a good book.

JSW: I’d happily join you there for tea! Speaking of cuddling, in your book, there are a lot of pets. Can you tell us about any pets you had growing up.

MS: I was thrilled that Amy Huntington included dogs in her drawings because I’ve always had dogs as pets. My first dog ever was a big ol’ mutt named Sam. Sam was one bad dog. He loved jailbreaking whenever possible and helping himself to T-bone steaks defrosting on the counter.  Sam drove my mom crazy, but we loved that naughty pup.

JSW: Ah! They’re the illustrator’s creative vision! Cool! The first line of your book places us immediately in your story’s market. What’s your favorite first line of a book? (Any genre.)

MS: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  Can’t you just picture poor Winnie-the-Pooh contentedly taking his licks, happy to be in the hands of his boy? The quintessential example of loyalty and love. 

JSW: Beautiful. For our last ice breaker question, if you could have written any other published picture book, which one would you choose?

MS: The Lorax.  Not just because Dr. Seuss was brilliant. The Lorax was one of the first picture books to bring eco-consciousness to children and empower them to “speak for the trees.”  It strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and environmental awareness, something I strive to do in my own books.

JSW: Thanks for letting us get to know you a little better, Michelle! Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Can you tell us a bit about how you began writing poetry?

MS: Growing up, my brother and I would play for hours on the swings in our yard. As we swung back and forth, back and forth, we’d make up silly songs to the rhythm of our motion. I think this is where I developed my sense of cadence.  In high school and college, my poetry turned serious and angst-filled, as I thought “legitimate” poetry should.  When I had my own children, I returned to the world of nursery rhymes and lullabies and rediscovered the playful heart of poetry. I’ve been having fun playing ever since!

JSW: Your book reminds me a lot of one of our family’s favorites, FIRST FOOD FIGHT THIS FALL by Marilyn Singer. In both books, your poetry tells the story and includes a full story arc — both in the individual poems, as well as the compilation of poems that forms the book. That seems so hard to me! Can you talk about how you tackled that challenge?

MS: I’m beaming because you included me and Marilyn Singer in the same sentence. She is one of my poetry heroes! Her word acrobatics leave me breathless.  Let me catch my breath and try to answer your question.

I tend to approach every poem I write as a micro-story, each with its own introduction, exposition, and (hopefully) surprise twist at the end. Even something as simple as haiku naturally falls into these three beats in my mind.  So, to me, finding the arc within a poem is easy.

Finding the story arc across a poetry collection?  Now that’s more of a challenge.  When I started writing Fresh-Picked Poetry, I envisioned a collection that celebrated an entire year at a farmers’ market.  I wrote haiku about spring asparagus, list poems about early summer strawberries, free verse about colorful Autumn flowers, dialogue poems about winter squash. Besides moving through the year seasonally, the collection didn’t have much of an arc. My brilliant editor at Charlesbridge, Karen Boss, suggested I narrow the focus to one summer day at the market. She challenged me to tell the story of a child visiting a summer market and discovering its wonders.  This meant cutting almost half of the poems I’d written and coming up with new ones. I’ll admit it was hard parting with my asparagus and strawberries, but in the end, the collection tells a much better story.

JSW: Wow! That’s incredible. Now I need to catch MY breath!

For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

MS: I hope Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Market envelops kids in a full sensory experience, engaging them in the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and especially tastes of a farmers’ market.  Along with a taste for fresh, local produce, I hope the collection whets readers’ appetites for poetry.  After all, words are delicious!

JSW: As you have just shown, indeed they are!

Thank you and congratulations again on your debut picture book, Michelle! It’s a delight!

Michelle Schaub is a children’s author, poet, and teacher.  Her work appears in the anthologies And The Crowd Grows Wild:  A Global Gathering of Sports Poetry and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations.  Her first picture book, Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge) debuts in March 2017. Michelle teaches middle school language arts at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she shares her love of poetry with her students.  When she’s not teaching and writing, Michelle loves hiking, biking, and exploring farmers’ markets. Learn more about Michelle at www.michelleschaub.com or on Facebook.

You can buy Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market on Amazon here!

Julie Segal Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Oct. 17, 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy signed copies of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK here, or on Amazon here!

 

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A Two Debut Interview – Camille Andros

One of biggest perks of membership in Picture the Books has been getting to know one another. Bonding with fellow picture book authors and illustrators has been so much fun – and may be one of the few things keeping us all sane as our debut book release dates approach!

We want to share the fun with all of you, so we’re starting a series of Two Debut Interviews in which team members interview one another. For our first in the series, Anna Forrester chats with Camille Andros.

Camille Andros’s debut, CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS Charlotte the ScientistSQUISHED, releases next week on March 14 (illustrated by Brianne Farley; HMHKids/Clarion). Charlotte is a serious scientist who solves important problems using the scientific method. In CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED she tries to solve the problem of not having enough space to conduct her experiments and being squished by her many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all). This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for sparking an interest in STEM subjects.

AF: I can’t wait to talk about CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED — but for starters, how about some quick ice breaker questions… If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be – and why?

CA: THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton. I love the idea of living simply out in the country where it is peaceful and quiet….but I think I’d like to keep a penthouse in NYC too;)

AF: You get to pick a pen name – what is it?

CA: Hmmm, maybe some cool ambiguous initials with a famous scientific sounding last name…

AF: If you could take credit for ANY other published PB out there, which one would you choose? 

CA: This is hard. There are so many wonderful picture books. THE LITTLE HOUSE would be at the top of the list. It’s the book that made me want to write my own.

AF: How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the birth order – and did it matter?

CA: I am the oldest of seven kids. I think Charlotte is a bit of an autobiography in that sense 😉

AF: Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.

CA: No pets, but when I was eight years old I did catch and keep a tarantula in a big mason jar from the vacant lot next door to my house, but when my dad had to go out of town on business, my mom made me get rid of it.

AF: And… what’s the funnest or funniest job you’ve had, besides author/illustrator?

CA: I once scrubbed cheese vats at a dairy when I was in college.

AF: You had a brush with arachnology in the form of that tarantula, and with microbiology in the form of cheese cultures. But that happened a long time ago! How did you get the idea for a book about the scientific method?

CA: The idea evolved over time and many revisions, but I always loved the idea of showing a kid (or bunny 😉 who loves science and makes it look fun and interesting. I want the kids who read CHARLOTTE to be able to see themselves as scientists and know that being a scientist can look like a lot of different things.

AF: On your website you mention that you were one of seven kids and now have six of your own! You probably don’t have a re-purposed, carrot-like rocket ship writing studio in YOUR back yard — how DO you find the space and time to write?

CA: I sneak it in when I can. For a long time it meant lots of early mornings and late nights and that still happens too, but now almost all the kids are in school and my youngest is in preschool for half days now, so I try and be as productive as I can during those short preschool hours.

AF: Brianne Farley’s illustrations for CHARLOTTE do such a great job of keeping Charlotte’s scientific work warm and homey. What grabbed you most when you first saw the illustrations? 

CA: Brianne did an incredible job bringing Charlotte and her huge bunny family to life. I love all the little details she adds like the portraits of famous scientists on the walls. The end papers are amazing and filled with such fun details  – I can stare at those for a LONG time -and I love how each bunny in the family has a distinct personality that plays out through the book.

AF: It’s a delightful book, Camille – and is sure to inspire budding scientists of both the human and bunny variety. Congratulations!

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page! 

Camille Andros HeadshotCamille Andros loves asking questions and won first place in the school science fair when she was in Kindergarten. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and six children who know a little something about being squished. Visit Camille online at www.camilleandros.com on Twitter @camdros, and Instagram @camilleandros.

Pre-order CHARLOTTE here! 

Anna Forrester’s debut, BAT COUNT, illustrated by Susan Detwiler (Arbordale) released in February 2017. BAT COUNT features bats, citizen science and Jojo — another STEM-savvy girl.