“I was also very fortunate that Kathrine [Switzer] read the F&G and went page by page with me to ensure that everything was as accurate as possible. I can't say enough about her…she is just as amazing as you would expect her to be.”
Described by her former students as the “best second-grade teacher ever,” Kim Chaffee is also a mom, marathon runner, and now—a debut author. Her #firstpicturebook HER FEARLESS RUN celebrates the first woman to ever officially run the Boston Marathon and is a “biography that goes the distance!" (starred review, Kirkus Reviews).
Q. Was HER FEARLESS RUN the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?
A. HER FEARLESS RUN was more like the 6th or 7th manuscript I ever wrote. The first story I ever wrote was about a boy who loved bananas so much but he left his peels all over the place so his mother banned him from having them anymore. That story is currently in the drawer :)
Q. What inspired HER FEARLESS RUN?
A. I was inspired to write HER FEARLESS RUN when I heard Kathrine talking about her 1967 Boston Marathon experience at the Boston Marathon in 2016. As I runner, I never thought twice before signing up for a race that someone might tell me I couldn't because I was a woman and I realized that I have Kathrine to thank for that. After looking to see if there was a picture book biography out there on her already, I was thrilled to see that there wasn't and knew I needed to write it!
Q. How did you pick the title of your book?
A. The title, HER FEARLESS RUN, was not the title I submitted. It used to be The Right to Run. The subtitle has always been the same. When I signed the contract, Charlotte Wenger and Kristen Nobles suggested we change the title to FEARLESS, which I loved! Then, after talking with the sales and marketing teams at Macmillan (Page Street Kids distributes through Macmillan)- they suggested a change. HER FEARLESS RUN was created by the wonderful collaboration of minds at Page Street Kids!
Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?
A. I always brainstorm and start writing on my yellow legal pads with Ticonderoga #2 pencils — creature of habit! Then, once I feel like I'm getting into a groove, I move over to the computer and continue working there.
Q. What kind of resources did you use in your research for this nonfiction book?
A. I was very lucky that Kathrine has written an autobiography, Marathon Woman. It was extremely helpful for my research. I also used some newspaper articles and some short video clips that Kathrine made for makers.com. I was also very fortunate that Kathrine read the F&G and went page by page with me to ensure that everything was as accurate as possible. I can't say enough about her… she is just as amazing as you would expect her to be.
Q. Did you outline your story first or did you create your story while writing it?
A. I am definitely a plotter! Yes, I did work out some sort of outline before I began drafting but, after revisions, the final text is far from what was originally intended.
Q. What information do you include in the back matter?
A. The back matter explains how Kathrine did not intend to deceive anyone when registering for the race…she wore lipstick and earrings to run that day…as well as how Kathrine continued to fight for woman's equality in the field of running after that historic day. I also mention how Kathrine continues to inspire and support women through her charity, 261 Fearless, Inc., which connects woman all over the globe and provides opportunities for them to find their strength and self-esteem through running and walking. I'm so honored to be running this year's Boston Marathon as a charity runner for 261 Fearless, Inc!
Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on HER FEARLESS RUN.
A. I had been going back and forth with my editor on revisions so I was hoping things were going in the right direction toward an offer but I never let myself believe it. I tried to stay positive, thinking that at the very least I was getting professional feedback that would make my story stronger. When I finally got the email that had the word OFFER in the subject line, I gasped and walked away from my computer, without even opening it! I made my husband read it first because I couldn't believe it was actually happening!
Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book?
A. Page Street Kids was awesome about giving me input into the illustrator. My editor, Charlotte Wenger, sent over a few illustrators to consider. I picked a favorite and it just so happened that Charlotte and Kristen picked the same illustrator! Hooray for Ellen Rooney and her artistic brilliance!
Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?
A. Ellen's art is so incredibly stunning! I am so lucky she said yes to this project! The color choices and the strong emotion she conveys through her art take my breath away!
Q. How long was the publication process for HER FEARLESS RUN—from the time you received an offer until it was printed?
A. I received the offer in May 2017 and the book will publish April 2, 2019. Almost 2 yrs!
Q. When you read HER FEARLESS RUN to kids, which part of the book gets the best reaction?
A. I love this question! The part that gets the best reaction is when a runner shoves the race official off the course after he tries to take Kathrine's numbers. That part gets lots of cheers!
Q. Did you create any book swag for HER FEARLESS RUN? If so, what kind?
A. Swag is so fun and there are so many options…for now I have bookmarks and stickers but am looking into temporary tattoos and perhaps pencils. I love swag so I need to pull myself back from going overboard!
Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?
A. I think my #1 tip for picture book writers is to keep going. Rejections happen and yes, they hurt, some more than others. But try to look at it as weeding out the wrong people to publish your book, to make way for the right one. HER FEARLESS RUN received some rejections and I am so glad it did! Kristen was the perfect person to publish this story because it meant as much to her as it did to me and that feels like the way it should be.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I just started research for a new picture book biography that I am really excited about and feel a strong connection with the subject…wish I could say more but you know how that is! :)
Q. Is there a public launch for the book (reading/party at bookstore, library, etc.)? If so, provide details:
A. Yes! I have a local launch on April 6 at 11:15 at The Bookery in Manchester, NH which I am so excited for! The following day I get to launch the book at Brookline Booksmith with Ellen Rooney, the illustrator! And on April 12, Ellen and I will join the one-and-only Kathrine Switzer at an event in Boston to celebrate her, the 261 Fearless charity runners (I am one of them, too) and we'll sign books, too!
Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)