Q: What is your background?
A: I studied Art History and Studio Art at Tufts University, with a year abroad in Australia, and then began an entry level job as a graphic/web designer at a company in northern England. After a couple years, I moved back to my hometown of Niantic, CT, and started my own design business, making websites and promotional materials for libraries, towns, and small businesses. I also created a few sites for fun, like AnimalFactGuide.com and MyHouseRabbit.com. These personal websites provided an outlet for me to write articles about topics I was passionate about. In the back of my mind, I always had a dream of becoming a children’s book author and illustrator. But I wasn’t quite ready yet.
Q: How did you start writing and illustrating picture books?
A: When I was little, I loved poring over the illustrations in picture books like FROG AND TOAD, PICKLES THE FIRE CAT, and any book by Richard Scarry or Beatrix Potter. I really gravitated toward animal characters, and as an artist, I’ve always been happiest drawing animals too. But writing picture books wasn’t really on my radar until years later, when, in a sleep-deprived New Mom moment, I had an idea for a funny meta alphabet book. That’s when I decided to really go for it. I put together a dummy, found a local critique group, and braced myself for their feedback.
Q: How long have you been working toward publication?
A: I started submitting my meta alphabet book dummy to agents in 2015 and signed with a junior agent at BookStop Literary the following year. We went through lots of revisions and eventually went out on submission to a small round of editors. We took a break submitting that book and went on submission with the dummy I wrote and illustrated during Storyteller Academy, called SNOW DAY FOR GOAT AND BADGER. In the middle of the submission process, my agent left the business, and Kendra, the owner of BookStop Literary, took over for her. Unfortunately, that story didn’t sell (yet), though it did come close several times.
Q: Have you felt frustrated by trying to get a picture book right?
A: It would be strange if I DIDN’T feel frustrated at some point when trying to get a picture book right. To me, that’s part of the process. It’s like trying to figure out a puzzle when there’s no guarantee there’s an actual solution to the puzzle.
Q: When did you take Arree Chung’s class?
A: I am proud to have taken part in Arree’s inaugural Making Picture Book Stories course in the Fall of 2016. I decided to take a chance on the course because I was having trouble coming up with another story after writing my meta alphabet book. I thought taking the course would give me the necessary push to finally come up with new characters and new adventures. Ones that I could fall in love with. And it did!
Q: How did Arree’s class change the way you write picture books?
A: Arree’s approach allows you to create stories in a non-linear way. I was getting stuck writing that second story because I was trying to write a manuscript, and then draw the pictures to accompany the words. The resulting stories were just not that interesting or original. And they were also really wordy. Now when I’m making a new story, I collect various pieces- funny scenes and catchy lines--that I eventually fit together to create a story with a distinct voice.
A: Editors and art directors are definitely responding more positively to my work since taking the class. In addition to improving my writing and storytelling abilities, a huge benefit to Storyteller Academy has been the critique group I joined during the course. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to learn from talented, professional illustrators like Aaron Clark, Ken Lamug, Maral Sassouni, and Emily Wayne. They’ve given me so many tips on how to make my illustrations more effective by varying perspective, angles, and layouts, and it’s brought my work to a completely new level.
Q: When did you sign with your agent?
A: I queried BookStop Literary Agency at the end of 2015 and worked with Ilse Craane on revisions to my dummy for six months before signing with her in May of 2016. When she left the business at the end of last year, I started working with Kendra Marcus. Working with Kendra (and Ilse previously) really helped raise my level up because neither of them shied away from tough feedback. Kendra has a great eye for spotting issues that need work, whether it’s the emotional or narrative arc, the character development, or something in the illustrations. That said, the ultimate goal is getting the dummy ready for an editor who shares your vision (and who will buy it!), and Kendra understands that balance.
Q: Do you have any advice for our blog readers?
Q: What's next for you?
There was a lot of waiting involved from when I first got word that Viking was likely to make me an offer to when I signed the contract for a two-book deal--about three months. I’m happy to report that the dummy I worked on during that downtime was accepted as the second book! Slated for 2021, my second book aims slightly younger and plays around with animal sounds. I can’t wait to share more details with you! Currently, I’m working on something a little different--a nonfiction picture book. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, so I’m hoping I can fit all the pieces together.