Yes! I love visiting classrooms from pre-k on up, and can tailor a discussion to fit various grade levels. To request information about scheduling, or for answers to other school-visit-related questions, you can e-mail me at: email@example.com. Also, check out the school visit link on this site for an overview of my school visit program.
My three daughters and my own childhood experiences provide plenty of inspiration, but ideas come to me in other ways, too. A funny story told to me by a friend, a scene glimpsed from a car window, a song, season, color, feeling—really, just about anything can spark an idea. I often begin with a title. A fun title will pop into my head out of the blue (usually when I’m in the shower, driving the kids to school, or drifting off to sleep) which is why I always try to keep a notebook nearby to jot down ideas.
My first four books are picture books intended for young children (3-7 yrs), but I’m also at work on a middle grade novel. I don’t believe you have to choose one or the other. Many of the children’s book authors I most admire—Kevin Henkes, Kate DiCamillo, Jane Yolen—move seamlessly from picture books to longer narratives.
Their work has a versatility (among other enthralling qualities) to which I aspire. And although young readers and middle grade audiences interest me most right now, I try to stay open to letting all kinds of stories in when they knock.
Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak was a big favorite, as was any book by Dr. Seuss, Mercer Mayer or Shel Silverstein. I loved fantasy novels, especially those involving time travel—like Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or Edward Ormondroyd’s Time At The Top.
I also enjoyed mysteries with clever empowered kids as main characters. I read all the Nancy Drew I could get my hands on, and From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is one of my favorite books of all time.
Pigs. Obviously. (Elephants and bears are tied for second place.)
So many desserts to love. But if I had to choose a favorite, I’d say my grandma Rosie’s dark chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. The recipe is printed in Baking Day at Grandma’s.
No. I wanted to be a ballerina, and an olympic gymnast and a famous actress. None of those panned out. I did always write, though—mostly little poems and stories in my journal. And I worked as a copywriter for a time, but it wasn’t until after I started having kids of my own that I decided I wanted to try writing children’s books.
I was fortunate to have my husband, Chris, pass a manuscript of mine to his longtime editor and friend, Patti Gauch. We pitched the book as a team, and her confidence in Chris’s artwork helped a great deal. At the end of the day, though, the writing had to pass muster. It had to be something the publisher felt was worthwhile and marketable.
That said, not everything I submit gets published (or even read!) I write plenty of drafts that never see the light of the day and some that I submit and never find a home. It’s all part of the learning/growing process as a writer.
My advice to anyone looking to begin a career in children’s books is to read books in your area of interest voraciously. Go to the bookstore or library; make note of the books you like and who publishes them.
Also, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators which offers memberships for both published and non-published writers and artists.
I do have an agent. In 2013, I signed with the incomparable Emily van Beek of Folio Jr., and that continues to be one of the best decisions I ever made. But it took a long time for me to find just the right fit agent-wise, and I worked for many years without one. The right agent can help you develop as a writer, will be your partner in building your career and will know which houses/editors are a good fit for your work. But it can be just as hard to land agent as it is to get a publishing contract. My best advice is to keep writing, research which agents are accepting queries and what kinds of manuscripts they are looking for—and then submit, submit, submit!