Saving Winslow: Interview with the one and only Sharon Creech!

I never know who to expect publicists will ask if I want to interview for my blog. When HarperCollins asked if I was interested in interviewing Sharon Creech, YOU BET I WAS!

Enjoy…..

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Hi Sharon! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your newest book, Saving Winslow!

My pleasure. Thank you for celebrating this book birthday with me.

Tell us a little bit about Saving Winslow.

Saving Winslow follows a young boy, Louie, in his determination to save an orphaned donkey that he names Winslow. The growing bond between Louie and Winslow parallels the growing bond between Louie and Nora, a quirky girl who usually expects the worst. The story also traces the bond that exists between Louie and his brother Gus, who is now in the army.  Like most (all?) of my stories, humor balances seriousness.

What gave you the idea to write Saving Winslow?  

Witnessing my grandchildren’s dedication and care in rescuing orphaned lambs inspired me. The lambs, like young children, were so vulnerable, so dependent on their caregivers. There were tense times (Will the lambs make it?) and humorous times (As the lambs gained strength, they gamboled through the house and yard.)  Those combinations of vulnerability and strength and of the serious and humorous appeal to me. Instead of writing about a lamb, though, I chose a donkey, suspecting that my daughter and granddaughter might want to write their own lamb story one day.

Can you tell us about your writing process?

I usually begin with only a vague idea (child rescues orphaned animal) or voice, and then I jump in, writing rapidly to see what emerges. Part of the thrill of writing is discovering what emerges from that original, vague cloud. Once underway, I try to write 2-5 pages a day.  I edit lightly as I go and then more intensively midway through and again after completing a first –and second – and third draft.

Have you always been into writing?

I have experimented with writing stories, plays and poems for as long as I can remember, in part because I recognized early on that you could cheer people up by writing something for or about them. Later, I learned that you could also explore ideas and make sense of the world around you through writing.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

The most exciting part is taking a blank page and creating, word by word, something that did not exist before.

What inspires your creativity?

Life. The world. Children. Nature. Animals.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Hmmmm. I do not know. I feel as if my whole self is out there, bits and pieces in each book. If you read all my books, you will know me.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I might be teaching or renovating houses or painting.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’m working on the next book—a stubborn thing that is veering off in so many directions that I am dizzy. I will have to rein it in.   Soon! After that, I assume I will keep exploring whatever comes up . . .

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I was fortunate to encounter many great teachers when I was young, so I would like to pause and celebrate those teachers and librarians. I’ve also been fortunate to encounter thousands of readers and hundreds of teachers and librarians in my writing life, and they all inspire me. Here’s to them and to you—

Xx Sharon Creech

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GALÁPAGOS GIRL Blog Tour: Interview with Marsha Diane Arnold and Angela Dominguez

Today I’m honored to have both Marsha Diane Arnold (author) and Angela Dominguez (illustrator) of GALÁPAGOS GIRL (Sept. 18, Lee & Low) here for some interview questions!

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First, let’s hear from Marsha…

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Marsha, what inspired you to write this book?

The enchanting Galápagos Islands! Who wouldn’t want to write about this beautiful volcanic archipelago filled with unique flora and fauna? When I visited in 2007, I met Valentina Cruz, our naturalist guide, who was born and raised on the islands. That’s when the idea came to me of writing about Galápagos wildlife through the eyes of a young girl who grew up there.

Tell us about the book from your perspective.

 Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña is a celebration of a way of life that revolves around nature. That was the life lived by Valentina Cruz, her parents, and her eleven brothers and sisters. The book is also a salute to the amazing creatures that inhabit the islands. Many are threatened. Many are found nowhere else on earth. I wanted to say a prayer for them before the world – “We will not forget you. And we will help to keep you safe.”

Here are a few of the Galápagos animals I met on my visit:

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Sea lion and Nazca booby look you straight in the eyes in the Galápagos.

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I love hanging out with marine iguanas and sea lions.

What were your thoughts when you first saw Angela’s illustrations?

Angela’s illustrations are so bright and cheerful. They portray the delight Valentina felt growing up in the Galápagos. I felt Angela’s images would draw young readers into our book. She was the perfect choice to illustrate Galápagos Girl/Galapagueña.

Anything else you’d like to tell readers?

Have fun exploring nature each day, whether it’s examing a seedling popping through a sidewalk crack, studying a bird building a nest, listening to a coyote’s howl, or watching the moon at night. You can also have fun reading about nature. Learn about a rare or unusual animal, like the babirusa or the pink fairy armadillo. They are fascinating!

What’s coming next for you?

Next spring is an exciting time for me. Badger’s Perfect Garden, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki, comes out from Sleeping Bear Press in March. Mine. Yours., illustrated by Qin Leng, follows in April from Kids Can Press.

I just discovered who the illustrator for my 2020 book will be and got permission to share it here! Lights Out!, to be illustrated by Susan Reagan, is about another subject I’m passionate about – light pollution.

Thanks so much, Dylan, for having Angela and me to your site to celebrate our book!

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And now, a word from Angela!

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Tell us a little bit about your new book, Galápagos Girl!  

Thank you for having me, Dylan! I’m very excited about this new book. Galapagos Girl is about a young girl named Valentina who grows up on the island of Florena in the Galapagos. Valentina’s exploration of the island inspire her to become a biologist and share her love of the Galapagos with others. This book, at its heart, is about conservation and showcasing the rich diversity of life on the Galápagos. These concepts are what attracted me to this project along with Marsha Diane Arnold’s beautifully written text.

 Tell us a little bit about your illustration process.

For every book, I do some research, but for this book it was important to get everything just right. Especially since there is a glossary for the kids in the back of the book, and it’s also based on a real person. I spent a good part of this project just researching and watching documentaries before even starting sketches. When it came to the final art, I did tight pencil sketches, tighter than usual, and colored it digitally.

Have you always been into writing/illustrating?

I’ve always loved both. I used to make my own books at home or at my mom’s work on the weekends. I would work on an old typewriter that no one used anymore at her office while she caught up on work. When it came to college, I choose illustration as a major. I’ve been lucky to being doing this professionally for 11 years.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I love telling stories in any form. So conceiving a story as either a picture book or now as a middle grade novel is the always the most exciting part. The conferences and school visits though are almost just as fun. Illustration is a mostly solitary job so whenever you get the opportunity to hang out with your book people, it’s the best.

What inspires your creativity?

Can I say everything??  Truly it’s experiences, art, music, and film which to me, is almost everything!  I do find that being outdoors in nature especially inspiring. It gives my mind the space to relax and to conjure ideas.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Oooooh, that’s a fun one. I’m a little afraid of riding bikes. I can ride, but only with hesitation. I think that is one probably one of my biggest goals. It’s also why I included the bike riding scene in Stella Diaz Has Something To Say. Stella is such an extension of me and what I aspire to be.

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

That’s hard to say. I think I’d have to be doing something creative either working as an art director in publishing company or creating concept art for film. I’d want to be working on stories some way. Although I wouldn’t mind working in a bakery either.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’m happy to announce I’m working on a follow up for Stella Diaz Has Something To Say! It’s still very early, but it will be coming out January 2020. I’m also working on the final art for a picture book with Candlewick entitled Kaia and The Bees.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

If you’d like to find out more about me please visit: www.angeladominguezbooks.com or follow me on @andominguez on twitter.

Snow Pony And The Seven Miniature Ponies Release Day! Interview with Jessie Sima

It’s a big day! Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies has made its way into the world, and illustrator Jessie Sima is here to visit with me!

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Hi Jessie! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Hi, Dylan! Thanks for having me.

Tell us a little bit about your new book,Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies. 

Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies is a very loose retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where, as the title implies, almost everyone is ponies. It was written by the amazing Christian Trimmer, and as soon as I read it I knew that I wanted to be the one to draw all of these totally ridiculous and utterly charming ponies.

Tell us a little bit about your illustration process.

All of my picture book artwork is done digitally using Photoshop and Wacom drawing tablets.

If I’m illustrating a story I wrote, I start by sketching while writing. If I’m illustrating someone else’s text, as was the case with Snow Pony, I go through and do rough sketches and character studies to get a feeling for the flow and personality of the story.

After the first sketches, there are many, many rounds of revisions with my critique partners, agent, editor, and art director. We try different paginations, compositions, and color palettes until it starts to feel right.

Once I have tight sketches and a final art sample or two, I move onto final art. I usually start final art by going through and doing all of the line art. It’s kind of like drawing a coloring book for myself and then going back to fill it in.

Have you always been into writing/illustrating?

As a kid, drawing was a thing I was always doing without thinking too much about it. It was something I did mostly for myself, to relax and to keep my mind busy, and for a long time I didn’t like to share my drawings with anyone other than close family and friends. That began to shift a little bit during high school, but it wasn’t until after college (where I completed a totally unrelated degree) that I ever considered illustration as a possible career path.

My interest in writing came a little later, and it was never as reflexive a thing as drawing. I felt confident enough in my writing when I was young, but I didn’t do it recreationally until junior high when I started writing poems. It was your typical melodramatic teen poetry, but I really enjoyed it. I think that form taught me a lot about using an economy of words that has been helpful when writing picture books.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Jessie: For me, the most exciting parts of making a book are when a seed of an idea begins to take the form of a story, and when I’m doing tight sketches and final art samples that begin to resemble an actual book.

The most exciting part of my job as a whole is getting to meet and talk to readers. It’s easy for me to forget that a book I’m working on is going to have a life of its own out in the world. I love hearing theories about what is “really” happening in my books, or what might have happened before or after. It’s all great.

What inspires your creativity?

Jessie: Inspiration can come from anywhere. I’m inspired by the books I read, the shows and movies I watch, the music and podcasts I listen to, and the games I play. My creativity is often sparked while walking my dog, people watching, or traveling to a new place. I’m always taking things in, and then I let it all simmer in my subconscious. I think some people call this “refilling the creative well.” I try to keep that well full, and as long as it is, the most important thing for coming up with new ideas is letting my mind wander. I think that’s true for a lot of people, which is why we come up with our best ideas when we’re in the shower or as we’re falling asleep.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

You wouldn’t know it from the books I’ve put out into the world so far, but I’m really into horror and dark supernatural things. I’m excited for Autumn and the upcoming Halloween season when everything feels spookier all the time.

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Before breaking into the publishing world I was designing graphics for a company that created women’s sci-fi and fantasy licensed apparel. So like, making the images on Star Wars t-shirts or designing patterns for Marvel dresses that you might find in places like Hot Topic. At one point I thought about trying to start my own graphic t-shirt brand, so maybe I would have done that.

I also really like animals, so maybe I would have started a rehabilitation center for mythological creatures. I’ll save that one for retirement, I guess.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Jessie: 2018 has been a busy year for me, and there’s still more to come! Love, Z, my next picture book as both author and illustrator, comes out December 18, 2018. If you are a fan of robots, or cats who captain ships, or messages in bottles, Love, Z is for you.

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I’m also working on some unannounced picture books that will be coming out over the next few years.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Jessie: I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading my books. I’m so glad that I get to continue sharing stories with you. If you’re interested in learning more about me, my books, or my upcoming events, check out www.jessiesima.com.

Reflections after Reading Alison McGhee’s Dear Sister

I posted this on Facebook last night and decided it was worth putting on the blog, too.

Last night before I went to bed, I read an advanced copy of Alison McGhee’s Dear Sister (out in October). I was struck by how many parallels there were in my relationship with my sister (like a 7 year age difference) to the brother and sister in the book. Also, the fact that the brother read to the sister over…and over…. And over again…. Of course, it eventually moved me to weep, and to ponder. And I’ve been thinking about what I would say if I were to write a letter to my sister in heaven, Taylor, today…

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Dear Sister,
I’m writing you mostly as a means to take a break from my PhD homework. I’m taking two classes at the same time for the first time, and I regret it. They both have 2 assignments due at the end of every 2 weeks. The next due date lands on this Sunday, and I’ll be in NOLA for the ALA Conference. I started on the PhD after you died. I told Lacy that when I finish it, she must call me Dr. Dylan. Do you know what she did? She laughed in my face and said that wasn’t going to happen. I imagine you would refuse to do so as well, just because you are so much like her.

It was 1,286 days ago that you left the earth and moved on to heaven. Your passing left a big, dark, cold void in my life, and in many others’. I know a lot of us have made progress in moving forward with our lives, but you sure made your impact here, and left a mark, which has made it so difficult for some of us to get beyond our grieving.

There are still moments that knock the wind out of me momentarily- from hearing a song on the radio, to playing a chord progression on the organ on a prelude on a comforting hymn, to seeing a certain box of cereal, to getting a notification from Facebook about a memory we shared. Facebook does that now- they will pull up your memories from all of the years past reminding you what you were up to on that day in time so many years ago. Some days I’m afraid to click the notification in fear of what will show up. So much has changed in the last five…seven… ten years…. And yet, there are some things that have remained the same.

I won’t fill you in on what’s going on in the world. Frankly, I don’t know if your tender and fragile heart could stand some of the atrocities happening in our country and around the world. As time goes on, things get fuzzier and grayer and more confusing. There is so much hurt and bitterness and anger in the world…. I’m glad you don’t have to endure it. That was the one thing that so many people have told me, and the rest of our family over the years- was that your heart was always so loving and so compassionate- and very, very fragile.

You know, I went to college and was employed for two years before you graduated high school, and I know I missed out on a lot of your life during that time. And I wasn’t always the best at communicating, because we didn’t have all that much in common during those years. You were a moody teenager chasing boys (then again, maybe they were chasing you), and I was trying to figure out what it meant to be an adult and how on earth I would function on my own in the real world.

And then it was time for you to move on to college. You were going to put that heart of yours to work and become a counselor. When I last saw you, I was visiting home for a week in the summer and we had the house to ourselves because Mom and Dad were on vacation. Do you remember that wretched stench in the house? You blamed me, and we both couldn’t find it. We called Grandma Jean when we couldn’t stand it, and she found the culprit- a bag of rotten tomatoes behind a barstool in the kitchen. When you both opened the bag, one exploded, and I still remember Grandma hollering “Grab a trash bag before another one explodes!” – You and I laughed and laughed for hours that night, once we could breathe after the tomatoes were brought outside and you fumigated the entire house with a single can of Febreeze.

How was I supposed to know that would be the last time I saw you alive and well and not hooked up to life support? I left early the next morning for IL. You left the next month for college at Iowa State. We kept in touch, sure, but I remember saying “I’ll see you probably next at Christmas” and you said “Yeah…. Probably.” I don’t think either of us knew what would transpire in the months following.

I know you would not want this for me, but I must tell you, I still lay down each night with the deep regret of not returning your call in mid-November. It was 11:30 on a Tuesday night and if I hadn’t had Pneumonia, I would have answered. When I texted you the next morning you said you missed me and just wanted to catch up, and I told you I’d call you back. And I failed on my promise. If only I had known that would have been my last chance to talk to you, I would have picked it up in a heartbeat. I would have made for darn sure that I followed up on my promise.

And then I got the call 2 weeks later that I needed to come home. I came, and my body froze and my heart broke into a million tiny pieces when I saw you there in the hospital. The nurses said you might be able to hear us, and so I’d talk to you and I asked you if you remembered the night the tomatoes exploded. I’m not positive, but I could have sworn the corner of your mouth moved up to smile a bit. After a week, I headed back to IL, not knowing that the following Friday Dad would make the hardest call of his life to let me know “She didn’t make it, Bud.”

Life has never been the same. It’s been hard, yes. But I have had so many chances to see the good— the BEST— in so many people and in so many circumstances. I have learned. I have grown. I have lived and loved like I never did before. There have been so many moments where I whispered to myself, “I wish Taylor were here to see this.” Most notably, at the birth of your nieces- Peyton Taylor and Paislee Marie. They took your names for their middle names. In a quiet moment when I was at Lacy’s house alone with them this past weekend, I looked into their eyes and I saw a reflection of your kindness and goodness and love in the innocence of what was looking back at me. I know they’ll grow up to make their mom and dad proud, and me proud… and you proud, of course. Many of us have committed to living your legacy of kindness and compassion and care, and sharing our hearts with the world- It’s the least we can do. And I know those girls will join the ranks.

It’s about time I get back to my homework, sis. I just wanted to let you know that you are not and will never be forgotten. And I will see you again some day.

Love, Dylan

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Nanny Paws! Interview with Wendy Wahman

Hello, Wendy! Thank you for joining me here!

Hey Dylan! Thanks for having me.

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Tell us a little bit about your 2018 book, Nanny Paws!

Nanny Paws was inspired by my little white standard poodle LaRoo, and the children next door. For a while, LaRoo and I got the kids up and off to school in the morning. They started calling her, “Nanny LaRoo,” and the story took off from there. However, LaRoo’s polite and rather serious demeanor is the opposite of Nanny Paws’ dog-centric joie de vivre. LaRoo does share Nanny Paws’ love of children though, and I’m looking forward to taking her with me to story times. I even had a Nanny Paws collar with I.D. tag made for her.

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Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I’ve always made up stories, especially while I’m drawing. In jr. high, I had a great mentor in my creative writing and journalism teacher, Joel Tankenson. I was going through a rough time in my life, and Mr. Tankenson was my rock. He didn’t know it, but his class was my refuge and consolation. We recently connected on Facebook, and I was able to tell him that – and he got to tell me I was one of his favorite students! Music to my ears, to mean something to someone who meant so much to me. I have such great respect for teachers: hand over heart, I salute you all.

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Drawing: Yes, always. Every day since I can remember.

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What inspires your creativity?

Any time I drive or walk somewhere new, or look up through tree branches, or get down on the ground with the ants, I feel a charge. Charge of what, I couldn’t say, (and wouldn’t want to limit with a name or definition) but there’s a sprig of hope attached to it. And hope leans on next, and next becomes now, and being in the present is to be aware of being alive and being alive, even in decline, is a creative process, so, let’s keep hoping.

A more concrete answer is, looking through books, stretching & yoga, talking to creative friends. The Thesaurus is handy for sparking ideas. Sometimes I make an Insight Book*, or doodle. Museums and plays, of course. I just got a metropolis of inspiration: “The Book of Symbols, Reflections on Archetypal Images,” published by Taschen.

*Insight Books: https://www.wendywahman.com/insight-books

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What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I have a post-it next to my computer that reads, “Not now.” To shush my foul mouthed inner critic, so I can get my work done.

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If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I always think my last book will be my last! Practically speaking, I’d market my map making, info-graphic & graphic’s skills. Artistically, I’d do something with my ‘Wendoodles,’ and teach more Insight Book classes.

If I could magically transform into someone capable of doing something other than art, I’d raise miniature goats and teach yoga on the side.

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What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’d like to do sequels for Nanny Paws and Pony in the City. Right now I’m working on a new picture book about time. I’m also writing about my year in the seventh grade (see above comment about a rough time in jr. high). It might take shape as a graphic novel, magazine length piece, or maybe it’s just something I need to do for myself.

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Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Friends in California, I’d love to to celebrate the release of “Nanny Paws” with you and yours, the last week in June. My calendar is here.

Calendar: https://www.wendywahman.com/where-next

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Links & urls:

Website:  www.wendywahman.com

Blog: https://www.wendywahman.com/blog

Calendar: https://www.wendywahman.com/where-next

Insight Books: https://www.wendywahman.com/insight-books

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WahmanBookPage

The Whatsits on FB: https://www.facebook.com/5Whatsits/

My books on INDIE BOUND: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3AWahman%2C%20Wendy

 

BOOK TRAILERS:

Don’t Lick the Dog

A Cat Like That

Snowboy 1,2,3

Pony in the City

Rabbit Stew

Nanny Paws

 

Bio

Former Seattle P-I newspaper artist, Wendy Wahman now writes and illustrates children’s books. Her debut picture book, “Don’t Lick the Dog,” was selected as a 2010 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, starred for Outstanding Merit and accepted to the Society of Illustrators Original Art show. Other books include “A Cat Like That,” “Snowboy 1,2,3,” “Rabbit Stew,” “Pony in the City,” and “Nanny Paws.” Wendy’s editorial illustrations have appeared in major publications including Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times and the Harvard Business Journal. She lives in Tacoma with her husband, writer Joe Wahman and their two kids – who surprisingly, look and act just like standard poodles. Website: http://www.wendywahman.com

 

Wendy also teaches art and bookmaking to children and adults, and is available for children’s book storytimes, and school presentations.

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more odds and ends:

Wendy Wahman has had a number of jobs, including veterinary technician, dog trainer, security guard with her partner, a big red doberman named Willy, graphic designer, toy designer & technical illustrator. She was a staff artist for the Seattle P.I. until it closed it’s doors in 2009.End.jpg