An illustrator and theater designer, Yevgenia Nayberg grew up left-handed in the former Soviet Union. This experience inspired her to write her #firstpicturebook. ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY is a Junior Library Guild Selection and "the story of coping with any society's rigid norms and finding avenues for self-expression. . . . so jovial and bighearted, you wish it upon all oppressed lefties" (Kirkus Reviews).
Q. What inspired ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY?
A. The book is loosely autobiographical and based on my childhood experiences growing up as a lefty in the former Soviet Union.
Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. My original title was THE SECRET SOCIETY, but my publisher felt that it was important to introduce the character in the title. After much discussion, we arrived at the current title.
Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. On the computer and on my smartphone.
Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft?
A. My favorite part of the book is the ending, where Anya says good-bye to her Secret Society. It's a bittersweet moment and feels very personal to me.
Q. How did you select the names for your characters?
A. That's an easy question! I have a difficult name for English speakers, so all I had to do is to pick an easy to pronounce short Russian name. Anya was the first name that came to mind.
Q. What made you decide to tell the story in third person?
A. It helped to put more distance between myself and the character.
Q. Why did you write ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY in past tense?
A. It is the story from the past, so that seemed like a natural choice.
Q. Did you write the story first, then illustrate it? Or did the images appear before the words?
A. I wrote the story first, but I have a permanent collection of images in my head, an image bank if you will. Some of the images had already existed, they were just waiting for the right text.
Q. Did ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?
A. I think it received around ten rejections and a couple of "yes" letters.
Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY.
A. A mix of excitement and relieve.
Q. How long did ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. Almost 2.5 years.
Q. 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. There was a storyline in the book about secret messages that Anya wrote using mirror writing—something that I do on occasion. I really wish we kept it.
Q. When you read ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY to kids, which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. This came as a surprise, but kids like the part in which I talk about the secret world inside Anya, that only the left hand could express. I thought this was a rather sophisticated passage and was so happy to see that kids got it.
Q. Did you create any book swag for ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY? If so, what kind?
A. I am still new to the marketing game and have not made any physical swag. I animated my own book trailer, which was a big project for me!
Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?
A. Learn to switch your attention to other projects!
Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?
A. Maybe an illustrator tip instead: storyboard everything and check for the flow of color throughout the book.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I am finishing up my next book, THE RUSSIAN TYPEWRITER ADVENTURE, which is coming out in 2020. I am also obsessively working on a new picture book about Mona Lisa, street art and New York City!
Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
A. My website is www.nayberg.org I am on Facebook as myself, and on Twitter and Instagram as @znayberg
View the book trailer for ANYA'S SECRET SOCIETY