Tell me a little about yourself:
I’m from a tiny, tiny town in rural West Virginia, but now I live in Asheville, NC. I have a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I love the outdoors. I have three little kiddos: 6 years, 3.5 years, and 5 months.
When you were my age, did you like to read?
Yes! I read all kinds of books, but I LOVED mysteries. I devoured Nancy Drew books. And during the summer of my third grade year I read all four Sherlock Holmes novels and every single short story (56) that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about him. I have this distinct memory of sitting in the grass with my grandmother at this summer concert, and I couldn’t pay attention to the music because I had to finish my Sherlock Holmes story!
What was your favorite story?
It’s difficult to pick one favorite. In addition to mysteries, I really loved My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
How do you get your ideas? Like why frogs doing yoga?
When I was younger, I worried that I’d only have one story idea inside of me. But the more I write and read, the more ideas I have, so I have a long list of ideas now. They come from everywhere—things I see, books I wish I had when I was a kid, even dreams. And sometimes they just appear from some mysterious place, usually from questions I have about the world. I’ve wanted to write a kids yoga book since I first began teaching yoga years ago. I remember searching the internet and library shelves and not finding the kind of book I wish I had for my class, so I decided to write one. I originally wrote a series of yoga poems, but my publisher wanted a book about a frog, so that’s how Yoga Frog got started.
What author do you really like right now?
In the picture book category, I’m a big fan of Stacy McAnulty, Jess Keating, and Eric Pinder.
My oldest son and I are reading Jodi Lynn Anderson’s May Bird series together, and we both love it. My younger son and I adore Frankenbunny by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Alice Brereton.
Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would like to suggest?
Jessie Janowitz, The Donut Fix
Cate Berry author, Charles Santoso illustrator, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime
Mary Winn Heider, The Mortification of Fovea Munson
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
This question is so important to me, because I was that kid. I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. Everyone always told me to “write what you know.” And that’s good advice, but it’s misleading in a sense, or at least it was to young me. “Write what you know” doesn’t just mean write about external things that happen to you. It means give your characters the kind of emotions you have and know. Give them dreams and fears, the internal stuff. Internal desires and goals (writers call them internal desire lines) connects readers to characters. You want your characters to have an external desire line, too (what do they want to achieve—climb a mountain? Get a scholarship? Make a new friend?), but it’s the unconscious internal desire lines that make readers feel invested enough in characters to keep reading. So write about whatever you want, even if something you can’t technically “know,” like dragons or magic or a character who has more siblings that you. But gift your characters the feelings you know, that every human on earth knows, and you’ll create a story that will connect with readers.
Also, read. Read whatever interests you, but also make sure you read the kind of stories you want to write. If you want to write mysteries, you need to read mysteries. If you want to write picture books, read every picture book you can find. Publishing is constantly changing, so make sure you read lots of current stuff, not just the classics.
Do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
YOGA FROG was just released on May 29, so mostly I’ve heard from readers at school visits or social media. I’ve heard from a lot of teachers about how much their kids enjoy YOGA FROG and how kids are asking to do more yoga. That is the BEST feeling. I also love when people ask me questions about writing. There’s so much to learn—and published writers are constantly learning, too. I enjoy sharing the stuff I’ve learned (and am still learning) on my writing journey.