Can you tell us a little about your book?
My latest book is WAY PAST MAD. It’s about a little girl named Keya whose brother messes up her morning. She gets way past mad and takes her feelings out on her best friend, Hooper. Since so many kids and adults take their anger out on others, it’s my hope that readers will find better ways of dealing with negative feelings and will find Keya and Hooper’s journey relatable and heartwarming.
How does writing a picture book differ from writing a full-length novel?
When writing picture books, I’m more of a “pantser.” I lead with the emotion of a story and “pour” out a first draft--this was true both for My Quiet Shipand Way Past Mad. For longer projects, I still let emotion guide me, but I tend to plot more and use more graphic organizers. Some of my favorite plot/writing lessons have come from Martha Alderson’s Plot Whisperer workbooks, James Patterson’s MasterClass videos, Sudipta Bardham Quallen’s and Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s SCBWI workshops and Cheryl Klein’s books on writing.
No matter what approach I take for a project, I’ve found that good writing comes down to heart.
Who did the illustrations in your book, Way Past Mad?
Sandra de la Prada created the pictures for Way Past Madand also our next title, Way Past Worried. She is an exceptional illustrator from Barcelona. Some of her past work includes: Seek and Find Cities(Lonely Planet Kids) Un Dragon à la Bibliothèque (Milan poussin) (French Edition). I credit Wendy, the amazing editor I work with at Albert Whitman, for matching my manuscript with Sandra’s illustrations.
What’s your writing process like?
My process varies when writing the first draft of a picture book,
but I always write from my heart. After writing a first draft, I reread for clarity. I make sure the plot is working, the characters are relatable, and the emotion is front and center. I revise the story on the meaning-level. At this stage (which can take hours or days or sometimes months), I stay pretty open, sometimes changing the “meat and bones” like characters, major plot points or even the hooks of the story.
When I’m content, I trim words that don’t serve the story. Some of these words are directional cues, dialogue tags, or descriptions. I still leave “fat” or words that I know can be cut later. I choose to do this so a reader who is less visual won’t have to think or pause. Sometimes I will use art notes instead of leaving this language, but I always stay in my lane and add notes that might help a reader understand a twist or see something that is not addressed in the text.
Then I will layout the story in a paginated form. This activity really helps me cut text even more, consider page turns, and feel the movement and language of the story. I read this version out loud and if possible, I will also share it with kids that I know. Where do they laugh? Are they engaged?
If my writing group has time to read, I will share the manuscript with them. Last but CERTAINLY not least, I send the manuscript to my agent and/or editor.
What questions do you ask yourself about the projects you work on?
As a former teacher and someone who cares deeply about children, I am always asking myself: Why is this book’s message important?? Why do kids need this book? What extension activities could I do with readers or could they do in the classroom or on their own? How could parents/teachers/librarians/children engage with this story?
I like to imagine what swag I could give out to connect to the story/reader. If I can’t think of anything, then I ask myself: is my hook strong enough?
If you could give aspiring authors a piece of advice what would it be?
Bring your uniqueness and heart to the page.
What are you currently reading?
Craft:Boundless Creativityby Martha Alderson
Pbs:Three Ways to Trap a Leprechaunby Tara Lazar, illustrated by Vivienne To
The Bear’s GardenBy Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Alison Oliver
Numbers in Motionby Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
Today is a Beach Dayby Nancy Viau
Other:Goodbye, Mr. Spaldingby Jennifer Robin Barr
The Copycatby Wendy MacLeod McKnight
Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bullyby Darlene Beck Jacobson
Picture books you’re looking forward to for Fall 2020?
Ronan the Librarianby Tara Leubbe and Becky Cattie, illustrated by Victoria Maderna
This is a Sea Horseby Cassandra Federman
Short & Sweetby Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney
The Case of the Bad Applesby Robin Newman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke
Way Past Worriedby Me J, illustrated by Sandra de la Prada