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Q&A Blog

Spring back for inspiration

Today is April 2nd and it’s snowing here in Connecticut! So I’m going to look back at some #firstpicturebooks that promise warmer weather and inspire me to keep writing . . . instead of hiding under the covers like my dog Ellie. Click on each book title to read the complete #firstpicturebook Q&A:

FINDING WILD:
“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.”

ISLAND TOES:
“One of my favorite parts of the book is the surfing spread where it shows a girl surfing. Not only is it wonderful to showcase girls in sports, but this young girl is clearly experienced enough to be able to surf “toes-on-the-nose” style. I remember this phrase coming to mind after I had been working on the manuscript for quite a while.”

TIP TOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES:
“It was inspired by a nature walk I took with my daughters, who were then 6 and 8. They were not especially keen on walks at that time, so we decided that, to liven things up, we would take a stroll through our local nature preserve while being on the lookout for spots where fairies might be hiding. From there the story took on a life of its own - and the result is as you see it!”

MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHES:
“One day, while walking my dogs, I found the milkweed along the side of our quiet road had been mowed. Milkweed is vital to monarch survival. Monarch caterpillars were clinging to the drying plants. Seeing this was upsetting. The monarchs are in trouble, and I wanted to share their story.”

SALAD PIE:
“My daughter and I were at the park and she was playing pretend and said, “Salad Pie,” which I thought was so clever and creative that I repeated it in my head over and over all the way home. Then, during her rest time, I scribbled out the first draft of the story.”

THE SUMMER NICK TAUGHT HIS CATS TO READ:
“I was remembering when my daughter began reading middle-grade novels. She sank so deep into those books that she was in another world.... So that’s what the first version of the story was about—a boy whose best friend (his cat) gets lost in books. Gradually the story changed so that the boy teaches the cat to read. And then two cats were being taught, but reading didn’t come equally easily to both...”

JABARI JUMPS:
“I've always loved to swim and remember clearly learning to jump off the diving board. I try to write stories about moments that are relatable to kids and that one stuck out for me.”

GREEN GREEN:
“My husband and co-author Baldev Lamba is a landscape architect.  Years ago, we were walking in a harsh urban area, and he pointed to some weeds and wild flowers springing up through cracks in the cement. And he said something along the lines of, "See that? Nature is always there just waiting to come back." That stuck with me for a long time, and became the inspiration for our book.”

THE FIELD:
“The idea for the story came while playing outside in the rain with my children. They were so happy running in rain, splashing in pools of water and rolling in the dirt.”

ACHOO!:
“I spent three months researching daily everything I could about pollen, forest animals, black bears. I dug up every creature that eats pollen, wrote to vetters to double check the science. I hiked through a few national parks and pine forests, visited live bears in New Hampshire, observed a large honeybee hive at the Boston Museum of Science, and constantly researched bees pollinating flowers everywhere I could. I also contacted beekeepers, and went to multiple butterfly conservatories.”
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10 Tips for Writing Picture Books

1. Victoria Sherrow: "I had set a goal of writing and submitting at least one new story each month, including stories with holiday themes."

2. Miriam Glassman: "Write the story that is yours to tell. Don’t try to redo something already out there.".

3. Maryann Cocca-Lefler: "Stay focused, have thick skin and be willing to revise. Rejection letters are part of the process, learn from them and move forward."

4. Tara Lazar: "My stories always include a hidden chunk of my childhood."

5. Shennen Bersani: "Have a young child read it out loud."

6. Cheryl Lawton Malone: "Write while your kids are at the dentist. Write when your spouse goes to sleep. And when you’re not writing, read and think about picture books."

7. Deborah Sosin: "Go for it! Make the time. But ask for help. It’s too hard to do in isolation."

8. Audrey Vernick: "We were so stuck on one point and I had been reading some craft books and one suggestion was instead of trying to come up with one solution, shoot for five. . . . That proved to be a technique I’d return to."

9. Susan Montanari: "I had a dream [and] when I woke up I wrote it down."

10: Jean Taft: "I make a book dummy out of index cards for all my stories and work on the pagination from that. Sometimes I don’t fully understand how a story is (or isn’t) flowing until I make a book dummy."
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ACHOO! WHY POLLEN COUNTS

Award-winning illustrator Shennen Bersani talks about her debut as an author. ACHOO! WHY POLLEN COUNTS teaches children about bees, pollen, and the pollination process through the story of a baby bear and his allergy.
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