Inside KIDLIT will be conducting exclusive interviews with industry professionals with the intention of shining light on informative topics behind-the-scene of the children’s literature industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on.
I began my career as an elementary teacher in my home state of Iowa. Later, I wrote and produced educational content at Iowa Public Television.
I love kids’ books, especially children’s picture books. I enjoy getting lost in the magic of the words as they flow into the illustrations. I love picture books so much, that I wrote my own: The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale and Dust Fairy Tales, Absolutely Aggie. I am currently working on a Dust Fairy Christmas book.
When I learned that 2/3 of children, living in poverty, DO NOT own books, I founded the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On (PBPiO) .
PBPiO raises awareness for literacy issues and encourages people to donate new or gently used books to kids in need.
In 2015, I launched a special initiative called MARCHing Books to Kids. Throughout the month of March, I encourage people to donate books to the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project. The program provides new books to children of incarcerated parents. Each month, a volunteer records the parent reading a book. The CD and the book are then given to the child to keep. Book lovers and children’s authors from around the country have donated books.
To date, more than 2,000 books have been collected via MARCHing Books to Kids.
Who are your favorite children’s authors?
I enjoy and am influenced by traditional fairy tales. I like stories that allow the reader take away his own meaning and message. I try not to teach an overt lesson or moral with what I write, but I hope kids relate to my stories and come away with something that is meaningful to them.
Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors. He was such a master at weaving the morals to his stories, so deeply within the fabric of his rhymes; the messages whisper to you.
Shel Silverstein’s work touches and inspires me as well.
Do you ever get writer’s block and what helps you overcome it?
Yes! It is the worst feeling in the world when I want to find the words, but they just won’t flow.
I generally write in our home office. But, I take a pad and pen with me wherever I go. I have come up with some of my best ideas while sitting in the stands at my son’s swim team practices. I also take advantage of my hands-free phone. When an idea comes to mind while I am driving, I email myself a quick note. Hopefully, I understand what the note means by the time I get home. I learned long ago that ideas I am positive I will remember later, are always the ones I forget!
My process has changed a bit over time. I used to write everything by hand on notepads. It got to be quite messy and inefficient. Now, I write most of my drafts on Word. I print out every revision with a time and day stamp, so I can keep track of the changes I’ve made. Sometimes I go back and rescue a scrapped idea, but I generally don’t look back once I have deleted or abandoned something in the manuscript.
With technology moving so fast, where do you see Picture Books in 5 years? and where do you see your role?
In the future, I see the walls between traditional and indie publishing crumbling more and more.
When I set out to publish my first book, I didn’t know much about how publishing works, so I researched the industry for many months. I began to look for publishers and agents who accept unsolicited MS. Slowly, I realized there were not a lot of opportunities for 1st time authors. Of the few houses accepting unsolicited submissions, many were not interested in rhyming picture books. I was a bit discouraged, but I knew it was not impossible. I researched how to draft and send query letters. After working on the letters for a while, I asked myself if I wanted to do this for the next year or more-or do I want to make this book.
I switched gears and began gathering information about self-publishing. There is a wealth of information, and it was very time-consuming to collect and sift through the information and gather what I needed. But, I powered through and found a POD. I figured out the costs and compared it to what I’d likely be paid for a traditional publishing deal. In the end, I decided I could afford to self-publish and retain the rights and creative freedom.