Interview with Bethany Barton

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Sure! I’m a kid’s book author and illustrator, with a “day-job” in film & TV. (Because one career isn’t enough, so I decided to have 2? haha) I’ve been fortunate enough to have written and illustrated 5 picture books so far, as well as occasionally illustrating for other authors and commercial clients like Starbucks. 

I’m passionate about creating books that help kids address and discuss fear using superpowers like facts and humor. My 2015 book I’m Trying To Love Spiders won the 2016 Children’s Choice Award 3rd/4th Grade Book of The Year. And my 2017 book Give Bees A Chance was a SCIBA Award finalist, was listed in Scripps National Spelling Bee “Great Words, Great Works,” and was featured in the New York Times. 

But don’t let that stuff fool you—  I still pretty much I have no idea what I’m doing… ha! 

Can you tell me about your new book coming out?

Heck yes I can! My newest non-fiction picture book addresses a subject that terrifies kids (and adults) the world over: MATH! It’s called I’m Trying To Love Math, and it hits stores in July. It’s chock full of space aliens, electric guitars and cookies… you know, math stuff. 

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Do you actually hate math in real life?

You know, writing this book really changed my relationship with math. It all started as a joke with my agent. My husband is getting his masters in physics (!) and keeps writing giant, rambling equations on our sliding glass door with dry-erase markers. I joked that I should write “I’m Trying To Love Math” to understand what the heck he was writing, and then my editor (the talented and wonderfully patient Tracy Gates at Viking) LOVED the idea. In the course of the book, I had a mathematician/friend answering all my stupid questions and explaining concepts to me (a genius named Erich Patrick Enke) — and he was/is so in love with and excited about math that I started to love it as well!  Seriously! Math is so much more creative then I’d ever realized! Great teachers absolutely make the difference, and Erich was/is a fantastic one for how my brain works. 

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Did you always want to be a children's book writer and illustrator?

You know how Pete the Cat was walking down the street… and he just kept stepping in stuff… and then BAM - he had super sweet shoes? That’s basically my publishing career. 

I knew I wanted to be a working artist. I wanted to “Wake Up and Make Stuff” and then be able to trade that stuff I made for goods and services. I had stories to tell, and images to make, and thankfully I also had great mentors in my life. But I wasn’t particularly choosy about which field I ended up in, as long as I was creating things, telling stories, promoting honesty & empathy, and in doing so, was able to pay my bills.

It was actually my agent (big hugs to Stephen Barr at Writers House!) who found my art and stories on a blog I used to have and told me they could be children’s books. He saw it first, and I was overjoyed with the idea. 

It’s like Jim Henson said about working in the arts, “You have to be very very prepared… and very very flexible.” 

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How did you come up with your style of splotchy watercolor backgrounds?

Honestly, I made my first few books with all-white backgrounds because that’s what I find myself drawn to visually. My editor & art director wanted more color for Spiders, but just filling the background with a solid color seemed lifeless and not-in-the-same-world as the messy, gestural, energized artwork of the book. So I made a happy watercolor mess — a bunch of them, really— laid them into the background of the files, and VOILA!  I liked the tone it set; it seemed really happy and full of life.

Can you tell us about the process of creating your books? Do you write the stories and then sketch them out or do the images come to you first?

For me, since I’m making non-fiction books, it starts with research. LOTS of research. There’s so much competing information out there, so getting to the truth is important to me. Then I start typing and doodling. I draw with ink on paper, but I also draw digitally in Photoshop.

I make DOZENS of extra pages — with full-on text and illustration—  that don’t end up in my books. If I try to edit as I go I’ll overthink myself into stasis. So I just create, create, create.  Then I’ll go back and edit. My agent knows about this process, so if he doesn’t like an idea he’ll ask, “Is there something else you made for this part that ended up on the cutting room floor?” and usually there is. There’s probably a more time-saving process out there, but this one seems to work for me. 

Who is your favorite picture book illustrator and why?

Oh man, this changes all the time, there is just so much to love out here. But as of this moment? Everything Oliver Jeffers creates is inspired and filled with the most delicious layers. Kathryn Otoshi is able to evoke so much emotion within such a clean, simple, visual world… I really love what she’s doing. 

Where can we find you online?

www.bethanybarton.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanybarton/

NEW Daily Art Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bethanybartonart/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/awesomebARTon

Thanks so much for joining us, Bethany!!

Interview with Hannah Holt

Hannah Holt is just your everyday children’s author… with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer+Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

First, thanks so much for hosting me! From the time I was little, I enjoyed writing and telling stories. In fourth grade, I wrote forty pages of my first attempted novel. As a teen, I created elaborate bedtime stories for the children I tended. However, my family is full of scientists and engineers. I didn't know the first thing about writing as a career, so I majored in engineering. It wasn't until years later that I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher.


Can you tell me about your new book coming out?

My book, A Father's Love, celebrates animal dads around the world. There's also a secondary layer of exploring colors in different habitats. From the jacket flap:

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Throughout the animal kingdom, in every part of the world, fathers love and care for their babies. This book takes readers around the globe and across the animal kingdom, showcasing the many ways fathers have of demonstrating their love. Whether it's a penguin papa snuggling with his baby in the frosty white snow, a lion dad playing with his cub in a yellow field, or a seahorse father protecting his young inside his pouch in the deep blue ocean, we see that a father's love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Kirkus calls it, "A sweet bedtime book about fathers and how their “love is everywhere.”

I dedicated this book to my husband, but really it's for all dads.

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What were your books inspired by?

As I mentioned earlier, my family is very science-focused. In fact, my first book, The Diamond and the Boy, is a biography of my inventor grandfather, H. Tracy Hall. Maybe science is in my DNA. Maybe I'm just curious about the world, but the manuscripts I write tend to be nonfiction or informational fiction. There's so much to explore about the world, and I want to know it all.



How have the illustrations for your books matched up with what you originally imagined them to be?

I usually don't have a firm vision for what the illustration style should be. My illustration ideas are more like a dream--vague ideas of what could be. I feel very lucky to have been paired with amazing illustrators like Jay Fleck and Yee Von Chan.

Did you always want to be a children's book writer?

No. Despite my love for writing and storytelling, I didn't believe I was very good at it. I applied for honors English almost every year in high school and was rejected a lot. My senior year, I didn't even apply for the program. My handwriting and spelling lagged behind my peers, and my teachers let me know it.

I thought I would spend my life designing bridges. If you told me twenty years ago I would be where I am now, I probably would have laughed. I didn't know "professional children's book writer" was a possibility for me.

What is your favorite picture book?

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Instead, can I tell you about a book that hasn't been released yet? I first heard about A Small World by Ishta Mercurio back when it sold. The book description is lovely, and I can't wait for it be released this summer:

When Nanda is born, the whole of her world is the circle of her mother’s arms. But as she grows, the world grows too. It expands outward—from her family, to her friends, to the city, to the countryside. And as it expands, so does Nanda’s wonder in the underlying shapes and structures patterning it: cogs and wheels, fractals in snowflakes. Eventually, Nanda’s studies lead her to become an astronaut and see the small, round shape of Earth far away. A geometric meditation on wonder, Small World is a modern classic that expresses our big and small place in the vast universe.

Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @hannahwholt

Website: https://hannahholt.com/


Thanks for joining us, Hannah!

How to Grow Your Following on Instagram as a Picture Book Author or Illustrator

Okay. You’ve created an Instagram account (Why Instagram? Read this post.) You’ve got a list of what to post (Need more ideas? Read this post.).

Now how do you grow your following?

The first thing to remember is that (for most of us) growing a following is slow going. Don’t get discouraged… stay patient and keep the long view in mind. Unless you get super famous overnight or buy followers (not a good idea), you are just not going to get thousands of followers super fast. But in time, you will get them.

How to Grow Your Following:

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Use hashtags

To be honest, I find hashtags annoying. But they are necessary. If you’re like me, and they bug you, put them in the comments so they aren’t so blatantly in your face. Hashtags allow people with similar interests to find you. If you use hashtag #picturebookauthor, for example, people trying to find picture book authors can find you. Boom. Automatic followers.


Follow people that like posts from accounts similar to yours

It took me awhile to figure this out. One way to get more followers is to follow random people in the hope that they will follow you back. However, tons of followers that don’t engage with your posts won’t do you much good (or feel very fulfilling). So find people that are active on Instagram—people that like and/or comment on posts. These are the people that will actively like your posts if they start following you.

To find these gems, find someone with an account similar to yours. If you’re a picture book author, find an account that posts about picture books. Click on one of the posts, then click on the people who liked that post. Follow those people. There is a much higher chance that active Instagrammers will follow you back, rather than a whole bunch of random people. Not only that, but these are your people. They are interested in the kinds of things you are posting. Cultivate this audience.

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Giveaways

In my experience, giveaways are the fastest way to gain followers. They work even better when someone else hosts the giveaway. I haven’t found that hosting my own giveaways gets me many more followers because it doesn’t give me exposure to new people. But when someone else hosts the giveaway for me, all of their followers see the post, and this can pay off big when it comes to building your following.

That being said, keep in mind that some giveaways will be a flop. I gained 600 new followers in the best giveaway I ever had. Woot woot! But another giveaway only resulted in 12 new followers. There’s no guarantee that giveaways will succeed.. But they are definitely worth trying.

Post consistently

When you post consistently, you retain more of your followers. Despite that, there will always be people that unfollow you. Please don’t let that bother you. It’s just part of the deal. As for frequency, Instagram research has shown that it doesn’t actually matter how often you post, just that you are consistent. When you post consistently and are active on Instagram, Instagram also suggests that people are more likely to follow your account. So there you have it. Research shows that consistent posting can help you get more followers.

Unfollow people that don’t follow you

This doesn’t help you grow your following, but it’s still important. You want to keep your ratio of followers/unfollowers in check. In short, you don’t want to follow thousands more people than are following you. There are apps that will let you know all the people you are following who aren’t following you back. Figure out who they are and unfollow them. It’s a huge pain. Do it anyway. Or make your tech-savvy kid do it for you (I may or may not have used this tactic).

Now you’re set! Good luck, and I wish you thousands of followers overnight! (Or at least the patience to grow your followers into the thousands!)

Interview with Cathy Breisacher

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Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I grew up in Altoona, Pennsylvania, attended college at Penn State University and earned my Master’s Degree in School Counseling. I started my career as a high school guidance counselor at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School. After enjoying the counseling world for many years, I decided I wanted to devote more time to writing for children. So I obtained my Master in Library Science Degree, made a career switch and became an elementary school librarian. That move enabled me to immerse more of my time in the kid lit world, and now I have two picture books coming out this spring. I live with my husband in Hollidaysburg, and we enjoy traveling, especially to National Parks.

Can you tell me about your books coming out?

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Yes!
CAVEKID BIRTHDAY, illustrated by Roland Garrigue and published by Charlesbridge, will come out on March 5, 2019.  In the story, Caveboy and Cavegirl are best friends and do all kinds of cavekid activities together. They also share the same birthday! So, with their birthday approaching, each one decides to get something special for the other. They both have something valuable that they can take to Caveman’s Collectibles to trade, but when it’s time to exchange gifts, they are in for a big surprise. However, these Cavekids are resourceful, so they use their imagination and creativity to come up with a way to have a satisfying and very happy birthday.

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CHIP AND CURLY, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and published by Sleeping Bear Press, will release on May 15, 2019. It is a story about two potatoes, Chip and Curly, who compete against each other in Spud City’s Annual sack race. Chip has his heart set on winning the Golden Bushel Award, but when Curly shows up with a spring in his step, Chip is worried. He practices and gains admiration from the other taters in town, but he wonders if he will be able to get this win in the bag or if his dreams of winning will be mashed.

Where did you get the ideas specifically for these books?

CAVEKID BIRTHDAY was initially inspired by a clipart picture of a caveboy and a cavegirl. I started thinking of a story that I could write using cavekids as my characters. At one point, I decided to mash the cavekids with Christmas, and I started writing. It didn’t take long before the idea of doing a twist on the Gift of the Magi popped into my head. I have always loved O. Henry’s story about the husband and wife who each take their most treasured possession and sell it to buy a perfect gift for the other one.  So I decided to take that premise and have it take place during prehistoric time with cavekids. After many rounds of revision, the Christmas theme changed to a Birthday, and the rest of the story flowed from there. I kept the Gift of the Magi theme, so each of the cavekids ends up trading something they value in order to get the perfect birthday present for their friend. But there is a twist in the end!

CHIP AND CURLY – THE GREAT POTATO RACE was inspired by an annual potato festival near my town.  Every fall in Ebensburg, PA, there is a Potato Festival with large crowds of people, delicious potato food, crafts and games. While at the Potato Festival one year, I felt inspired to write a book with potatoes as the characters. I wanted to have fun with this story and fill it with potato puns to make both adults and kids chuckle. I had a great time thinking of ways to add potato-related words and puns to the story.

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What is your all-time favorite picture book?

CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds. It is told so well. It is fun, clever, imaginative…everything great storytelling should be. There are many books that tie for my second favorite picture book, but CREEPY CARROTS tops the chart. I also love SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett– the page turns are brilliant. MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan Higgins is hysterical. THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Swartz shows rhyme at its best. THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen is another favorite, and I also adore all of Kelly DiPucchio’s books.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

I love coming up with a fun idea that I think will make readers smile and laugh. I let my mind think of silly things: What if a hippopotamus went to the moon? What if a bear gets a new haircut? What if a moose tries to play hide-and-seek? I think of something and ask myself: what if, what if, what if? My mind does this every day until something takes up residence in my brain and I can’t stop thinking about it. My favorite part of writing is when I get a complete draft written and then I can delve into revising. Revising is my favorite part of writing.

If you could be any book character, who would you be?

I’d probably pick Clementine by Sara Pennypacker or Ramona by Beverly Cleary for their spunk and imagination.   They both make me laugh. I also wouldn’t mind being Hermione Granger for her intelligence, bravery, and loyalty to her friends.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me online at the following places:

Twitter:  @CathyBreisacher

Facebook:  Cathy Breisacher

website:  www.cathybreisacher.com


Thanks so much for joining us, Cathy!!

Interview with Stacy Innerst

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Stacy Innerst is an acclaimed artist, illustrator and arts educator. He was born in Los Angeles and studied Art and History at the University of New Mexico.

His picture books for children have earned a host of starred reviews as well as numerous awards, including a 2017 NY Times/NY Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award (for Ruth Bader Ginsberg), the 2017 SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration (for The Music in George’s Head), the BCCB Blue Ribbon, two Parents’ Choice Gold Medals and recognition by the NY Society of Illustrators, the Smithsonian and the American Library Association, among many others. M is for Music was named a 2003 Best Book of the Year by the School Library Journal and Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011. His paintings and prints have been exhibited widely in New York, California and throughout the United States and abroad. He lives in Pittsburgh.

The artwork for your pictures books is very unique. How did you develop that style of art?

I’ve always had a painterly, loose style and I studied painting and printmaking in college so that carried over into my work as an illustrator. I never really set out to develop an illustration style, per se, but I suppose I have over the years.

It’s more a function of doing what comes naturally and making pictures that I find pleasing rather than settling on a style. I love the way paint looks when it’s brushed onto a surface so that dictates pretty much everything I do.

How much planning and research do you do before you actually start painting?

The research component of my nonfiction picture books is actually quite time-consuming, but it’s also quite fun. The historical research leads me in directions that I might not otherwise go in picture-making. Part of my process is watching films that are set in the period I’m illustrating or researching the art and music of the era.

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Which picture book was your favorite to work on?

I’ve liked them all for different reasons, but The Music in George’s Head was especially gratifying. I really liked being able to visually represent Gershwin’s music. It was a kind of visual poetry for me.


Who is your favorite illustrator?

If I have to pick just one children’s book illustrator, I’d say Edward Ardizzone or Leonard Weisgard, I think, but it’s tough! Tough question! It changes from day to day. A few of my favorite artists and illustrators, in no particular order: Vladimir Radunsky, Quentin Blake, Robert Lawson, Carson Ellis, Wanda Ga’g, Sydney Smith, Edward Gorey, Eva Bednářová, Roger Duvoisin, William Joyce, Oliver Jeffers, Lopez Rubio, Leonard Weisgard, Antonin Clave, Pablo Picasso, Edward Ardizzone, Ludwig Bemelmans, Sean Qualls, Willem de Kooning.

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Do you have any upcoming books?

I’ve recently completed two picture books and the cover and interior illustrations for a middle grade chapter book. They should all be out next year. They are:

Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer’s Fight for the Statue of Liberty, by Claudia Friddell, Calkins Creek

The Book Rescuer, by Sue Macy, Simon and Schuster

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat, by Caroline Adderson, Groundwood Books.

I’m super excited about all three! They’re wonderfully written books by excellent authors.

Where can your fans find you?

I’m on social media-- mostly on Instagram but also Twitter and Facebook --@stacyinnerst. My website is stacyinnerst.com.

Thanks so much for joining us, Stacy!!

Storytime: Letter G

Welcome Song:

            (to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

            We clap and sing hello,

            We clap and sing hello,

            With our friends at Storytime,

            We clap and sing hello!

            (wave, stomp, march, wiggle, blink, waddle)

Alphabet Song: Use shakers while singing!

Introduce Letter:

  • Show kids a flashcard of the letter G.
  • Sing “The G says ggg, the G says ggg, every letter makes a sound, the G says ggg.”

Book 1: Goodnight Gorilla

Activity: “If You’re Grateful and You Know it, Clap Your Hands!”

            If you’re grateful and you know it, clap your hands!

            If you’re grateful and you know it, clap your hands!

            If you’re grateful and you know it, then you’re face will really show it,

            If you’re grateful and you know it, clap your hands!

            (stomp your feet, shout hooray)

Book 2: Giraffes Can’t Dance

Activity: Go! Stop!

  • I made “go” and “stop” signs and gave the kids shakers. When I held up GO, they had to shake. When I held up STOP, they had to freeze.

Book 3: The Thank You Book (we talked about gratitude)

Review: Show letter flashcard and say the sound again

Craft: Letter G giraffe

Storytime: Letter P

I run Storytime at the Penguin Bookshop and thought it would be fun to share my Storytime plans. While my Storytime is open to all ages, I do gear toward the younger crowd because a lot of 1 and 2 year olds attend. A few of these ideas are my own, but the majority I borrow from my favorite Storytime websites, which include Storytime Katie, Sunflower Storytime, Dog Earned Storytime, and Library Village.

Since I work at the Penguin Bookshop, the letter P had to be a Penguin party!

Welcome Song:

  •   (to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

            We clap and sing hello,

            We clap and sing hello,

            With our friends at Storytime,

            We clap and sing hello!

            (wave, stomp, march, wiggle, blink, waddle)

Alphabet Song: Use shakers while singing!

Introduce Letter:

  •   Show kids a flashcard of the letter P.
  •   Sing “The P says ppp, the P says ppp, every letter makes a sound, the P says ppp.”

Book 1: Penguin Problems

 

Activity: Feed the penguin

  • I made a penguin head with a beak that opened and closed. I cut out little fish of different colors and hid them around the room. The kids had to find the fish and when I called out a color, they came up and fed the penguin their fish.

Book 2: If You Were a Penguin

Activity: Penguin Waddle

  • I made beaks for the kids to wear and then told them to act like penguins (waddle, bob their heads, swim, slide on their bellies, eat fish)

Book 3: Playful Little Penguins

Review: Show letter flashcard and say the sound again

Craft: Letter P penguin