1. When you were my age (11), did you like to read? When I was a child, I LOVED TO READ!!! Despite my love of learning, I am a very wiggly person and really struggled to stay in my seat in school. The one time I would settle down was when reading. I read every chance I got. Books became the springboard for my active imagination!
2. What is a book that made an impact on you? Different books have had HUGE impacts on me at different ages, so I’ll list them for you by age.
Ages 4/5: The Betsy Book Series by Gunilla Wolde. I just called my Mom to ask her what it was I loved so much about the books and she says that at the time, I looked just like the Betsy character, which is a great reminder of why It’s so important for every child to be able to read books with characters that look like THEM!
Ages 6/7: The Amelia Bedelia books. I often mis-interpret things in the way that Amelia Bedelia does so I related to all her mistakes!
Ages 8/9: Anything by Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume. I tried to get everyone to call me Fudge from the book Superfudge, but no one would.
Ages 10/11 I got very into Shel Silverstein’s silly poems of Where The Sidewalk Ends. I loved how he played with sounds and words and ridiculous ideas. I learned that any idea could be used to tell a story! How he used letter sounds taught me a lot and showed me that there are SO many ways to select and order words! The same idea can be written an infinite amount of ways. Sentences are as unique as the people who write them!
Age 12 and up: After that, I started reading everything, including books for adults. I have always loved very big books because I hate it when a book ends, although I still read books written for babies, children, teens, and adults!
Recent: My favorite book for the past few years has been My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I’ve been working on a picture book biography of it that I hope to publish someday!
3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas? The idea is usually the easiest part for me. The most common way for a story idea to come to me is through my illustrations. I’ll make an animal drawing of some sort that I’ll really like and connect with and stories about the character in the drawing just start popping into my head! I find inspiration in other books and personal experiences and I combine them in unexpected ways to create my own unique stories.
4. You are debuting in a weird time. What is it like? I have spent 5 years working on this book in one way or another. The Trouble with Penguins is all about community and kindness and sharing, and those things seem even more important this year. To have my book come out right now is a little stressful but life is always unpredictable and I do what I can to not let what is happening distract me from sharing positive messages.
5. Is there other authors debuting right now you think kids should be aware of? Yes! Jashar Awan’s The Lucky Day is a wonderful debut book that just came out, as is Jason Pratt’s debut, Three Squeezes. Mika Song has multiple picture books out but her debut Graphic Novel Donut Feed the Squirrels is very charming! There are SO MANY wonderful debut books coming out and it feel so marvelously magical to get to be among them.
6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? My advice for anyone who wants to be an author is to read A LOT! Also, start writing your stories now. The wonderful thing about writing is that all you need is a paper and pencil or any computer or tablet and you can start writing stories. Try reading your stories to people as well. Hearing them out loud is very helpful. Once you have a story, you can work on making it better and better. I revised The Trouble with Penguins at least 100 times! And after that, it was edited multiple times by other people. Writing is about 10% inspiration, 20% writing, and 70% revision!!
7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I’ve been an artist and illustrator and graphic designer for 20 years but this is my debut as an author, so I can’t answer that. I CAN tell you that I hope I hear from readers and I’m very excited to share The trouble with Penguins with them!!
8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? Oh my goodness, what a wonderful question! So hard to choose one!! I’ll give you two. For other people’s books, I guess I’d want to portal into the Beatrix Potter stories. I wouldn’t want to be a human though— I’d want to be a dressed-up animal too! And my other answer is that I really REALLY would love to go hang out with my own penguins. Not real actual penguins, but my penguins. I’ve spent so much time with them that they feel like my best friends and getting to sit down and share a cup of cocoa with them would be a dream come true. Literally.