Today, we get to share the cover for Elaine's picture book! Who's excited? Woot! Woot! But first, we're going to share a couple of interviews that we've been holding back until this moment.
Q: What is your background?
A: I am a certified elementary school teacher in New York.
Q: What made you want to start writing picture books?
A: I have always wanted to write children’s books, but I didn’t think that it was a practical way to make a living. When my kids were born, I fell in love with them, and I just knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I have been writing seriously (as in, churning drafts) for about seven years.
Q: You helped found KidLit411, a wonderfully supportive and informative website and community for children’s writers. What made you see a need for it?
A: My critique group, the Penguin Posse (Shout out to Sylvia Liu, Renee LaTulippe, Teresa Robeson, Victoria Warneck, and Yvonne Mes!) and I would make a list of all of the really great writing links that we found, and we would share them with each other. When the list got long, Sylvia and I thought that maybe our other writing friends would like to see the links too, so we decided to create a website. We went old school on the name. “411” means “information.” So, we married the two, and KidLit411.com was born.
Q: Have you ever felt frustrated by trying to get a picture book right?
A: YES! ALL. THE. TIME. A well done picture book is like a piece of music; when it’s done right it just flows. Getting it to that point can be extremely frustrating at times.
Q: When and why did you take Arree Chung’s Making Picture Book Stories and Dummies?
A: I took Arree’s inaugural class in October of 2016. I am a huge fan of Arree’s work, and when he announced that he was going to teach a class, I signed up right away.
Q: How did taking Arree’s class change the way you write picture books?
A: At the time I took Arree’s class, I had just written a brand new draft about a dinosaur that I thought had a decent hook. So I decided to work on that one. Arree’s class was incredible because it forced me to make a physical dummy of the book. That was new for me. As a writer, I didn’t think about creating dummies of my drafts. I thought that was something for illustrators. By making the dummy, however, I could see exactly how my manuscript was working, and where it wasn’t working. Arree’s class worked for me because it was the perfect balance of craft discussion and creation. In teaching, I will often present material in various forms for a deeper understanding to my students. Arree’s methodology is similar, and for me, it just worked.
Full disclosure: I was initially tempted to SKIP the dummy portion of the class, but I am so happy that I did not. I create dummies for every manuscript I write now!
Q: Could you tell us about your book deal with Albert Whitman?
A: My agent, Linda Epstein of the Emerald City Literary Agency, submitted my picture book, NOAH NOASAURUS, to Jonathan Westmark in July of 2017, and we had an offer within two weeks. It has been absolutely wonderful working with Jonathan. He understood my vision for NOAH and chose the perfect illustrator, Colin Jack, to bring him to life. I hope I get the opportunity to work with Jon again.
Q: Do you have any advice that might help readers find satisfaction or joy in writing picture books?
A: Find a helpful tip that works for you. For example, the very first thing I do is write myself is a pitch/logline and post it to the top of my manuscript. Pasting it at the top keeps me focused while I revise early drafts, and I think it’s very helpful. For example:
Character wants to do something but can’t because obstacles. But when something changes or happens, the character is able to do something and solve the problem.
I would also say to try to find some joy in the revision process. Find a way to revise your manuscript that you enjoy. I love to make dummies! Since I am not an illustrator, my dummies are simple. Paper, removable tape, and a pencil is all you need.
Q: That's great advice! What’s next for you?
A: NOAH NOASAURUS debuts in April 1, 2019, so I am planning on doing lots of school visits/book store appearances when it comes out. I am on submission again, so my fingers are crossed for more book deals!
Thanks for having me and THANK YOU!
SA members, nonmembers, and random spambots, Elaine is a genuinely wonderful person to work with, and I'm thrilled for her. Give her some love and ask all your questions in the comments!