My #FirstPictureBook

FINDING WILD

May 2, 2016

Tags: FINDING WILD, Megan Wagner Lloyd, Abigail Halpin, Knopf/Random House, 2016

Megan Wagner Lloyd has helped organize community literacy and art events and taught creative writing to fourth graders. She is allergic to all animals with fur or feathers but that doesn't stop her from embracing nature. Today she shares the story behind FINDING WILD—a "sparkling debut" (Publishers Weekly) in bookstores May 10th.

Q. Was FINDING WILD the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book that you wrote and what happened to it?
A. I'm pretty sure the first picture book manuscript I ever wrote was way back in 2003. It was about a little girl who got lost in the snow...and is mercifully not published!

Q. What inspired you to write FINDING WILD?
A. I've always loved spending time outside. When I was young I think I took this connection to the natural world for granted. I didn't realize that you really have to hang onto that, or the busyness of life will take over. With my own kids I've tried to encourage outdoor play and a sense of wonder for nature, in both big and little ways. I think all of this was in the back of my mind as I wrote FINDING WILD. I wanted to celebrate nature and the special connection kids--and, really, all of us--can experience when we take the time to notice the beauty and wild all around us.

Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. I wanted something that conveyed a sense of exploration and searching.

Q. Why did you choose not to name your characters?
A. When I wrote my first draft, it came out more lyrically, rather than as a traditional three-act story, and some early readers even wondered if it could be a picture book. Many drafts later I decided to see what my agent thought...and she loved it! My manuscript didn't have any art notes, so the illustrator could have interpreted it in a number of ways, but I'm so glad that Abigail Halpin chose to create two curious kids to explore the wild in the pictures!

Q. How much of the story did you know when you began to write FINDING WILD?
A. All I knew was that I wanted to write something about the wild. I just started writing with that idea, and a rough draft of FINDING WILD came out.

Q. How did you decide between telling the story in first or third person?
A. It's actually in second person, which wasn't a conscious decision for me--once I got the voice of the piece rolling, I just went with it.

Q. What is your favorite part of FINDING WILD? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite spread is a scene of the kids breathing in the smells of nature (I just love the way Abigail illustrated it!). "Wild is full of smells--fresh mint, ancient cave, sun-baked desert, sharp pine, salt sea. Every scent begging you to drink it in." I just checked, and it was not in the first draft. I mentioned smelling the wild in the first draft, and I think a critique partner encouraged me to flesh out that concept in real-time instead (the classic "show, don't tell" advice). Critique partners can be amazingly helpful!

Q. What was your reaction when you received an offer on FINDING WILD. Were there any rejections prior to your offer?
A. I think I went back and forth between shocked silence and running around the house screaming!
FINDING WILD received a few rejections before being picked up by Knopf quite quickly.

Q. What kind of input did you have in selecting an illustrator for the book?
A. I know this is not how it usually works, but I actually knew that Abigail Halpin was going to be the illustrator before I signed the contract, so that was wonderful, because right from the start I had confidence that the illustrations would exceed my expectations.

Q. How long did FINDING WILD take to be published--from the time you signed a contract until it was printed?
A. I signed the contract in February 2015 and it comes out May 10th of this year.

Q. Is there anything you would change in the book today if you could reprint it? (Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?)
A. Nope! I couldn't be happier with it.

Q. What is your #1 tip for writing picture books?
A. I can't decide between two tips, so I guess it's a tie:
#1: Find your unique voice
and
#2 Trust the illustrator (aka keep your art notes to a minimum!)


Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I really enjoyed answering your questions—it was fun to reflect back on the process of writing FINDING WILD and working towards becoming a debut author.

To learn more about Megan and her books, visit her website.

Congrats Bnvoights--you are the winner of last week's raffle for PENNY & JELLY! Email me through my contact page for details! Thanks to everyone for their comments and interest!

Comments

  1. May 2, 2016 10:01 AM EDT
    Thanks, Karlin & congrats on your debut, Megan! Can't wait to help celebrate its launch at the end of the month! And I'm a nature girl, so this is my kind of book :)
    - Maria Gianferrari
  2. May 2, 2016 11:21 AM EDT
    This is exactly the sort of book I love to read out loud to kids. Can't wait to read it! Everyone needs a nature fix - and we all need more "wild" in our lives.
    - Sue Heavenrich
  3. May 2, 2016 5:04 PM EDT
    This looks like my kind of book. Thanks for writing it & thanks for the interview, too.
    - Patricia Nozell
  4. May 2, 2016 9:56 PM EDT
    Thank you Maria, Sue, and Patricia for your kind comments. I really appreciate it!
    - Megan Wagner Lloyd
  5. May 3, 2016 9:02 AM EDT
    It smells like salty ocean and damp moss outside my door today. I found my WILD inspiration. Thanks for reminding me to find voice early and often.
    - Cathy Ballou Mealey