I believe it's important for people to follow their passion and love what they do - these are words my father always shared with me, and he is a wise man. I am blessed to have a creative job and one that I love - making books for children!
I am the author of more than twenty-four acclaimed books for children. I write full-time from my home - where I am easily distracted by anything and everything outside of my windows.
I was fortunate to grow up in a house that was filled with books. Coffee table books with beautiful photographs and text I couldn't read as a child, but pages I loved pouring through, anyway. Children's books. Lots of them, many I still own today, their pages worn and yellowed. Books were my friend as a child. They kept me company when I felt alone. They invited me to places where I could use my imagination. I loved books so much, I spent a lot of time making my own stories as a child. I would gather paper, staple the edges together to make a ""book"" and then do my best to write and illustrate stories - primarily about animals or our family pets, who I would personify by illustrating them with clothes and human-like behaviors. My parents saved all of the books I created as a child, and I have them to this day. I love sharing them with children when I speak and visit schools and libraries - it's funny to see I wasn't a very skilled writer in my early years, yet I obviously loved writing regardless and also grew up to be an author!
Coincidentally, my parents gave me a picture book for Christmas one year. The picture book was ""Carl's Christmas"", by Alexandra Day, and my parents wrote a very special inscription inside of it. They wrote that they knew how much I loved animals and being creative - and perhaps one day they would be able to share ""my"" published books. How foresightful was that?!
It just goes to show the power of a children's book, and how a book may impact a child's life.
It is my hope that young readers - and their parents or teachers - may read my work and feel a sense of wonder about the natural world around them. I also hope they feel delight and joy in the reading process - that my books may be enjoyed again and again and again : )
Ironically, my very first published book, "Way Out in the Desert" (Rising Moon, 1998 - still in print to this day!) was accepted by the very first publisher I approached - beginner's luck, for certain! That said, I really knew nothing about publishing or being an author because I hadn't spent the "traditional" number of years often necessary to get published. It all happened so fast that my biggest challenge was needing to learn about the industry as I embarked on a new career path.
I was a elementary education teacher for many years, and like most primary teachers, I had a classroom full of books for children. I absolutely fell in love with children's books, using them with my curriculum daily. In my head I would think, 'gosh, how amazing it must be to create children's books, to be an author of children's books.' Then, the school where was teaching arranged to have an actual author visit for the day. She visited with all grade levels, sharing her writing and creative process. I was SO inspired. From that point on, I decided I was going to pursue getting my own work published, and so I did!
The best way to raise readers is to simply provide children with access to books, as well as time to access the books and enjoy them. Be a role model. Children need to see adults enjoying the process of reading, whether it be a book, a magazine, or a newspaper. Read aloud to children. It's important for children to hear the language of books out loud. Invite children to enjoy and "read" the illustrations found in picture books, too, as illustrations tell a story along with a book's text. Provide a variety of books on various topics: humor, fiction, non-fiction, fantasy... tap into a child's likes, interests or hobbies and provide books on those subjects.
When I find I'm in need of inspiration, I simply go outside and immerse myself in nature. Here, I will work in my garden while thinking about the stories I'm creating. I also love birds, so I spend a lot of time outdoors observing bird behavior and photographing birds - birds have inspired several books I've published, such as "Mama Built a Little Nest" (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books, 2015), "I Love Birds! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids" (Roost Books, 2019), "How to Find a Bird" (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books, 2020), and likely more in the future!
My process begins with a concept or idea. Once I have a solid concept (say, something related to animal behavior, for example), I then work on a first draft to take the story's concept from a beginning, to its middle, and then to its end in a creative and engaging manner - this is the hardest part! I know that my story must be able to support at least fifteen (15) illustrated spreads. I create a first draft. Let it sit for a day or week. Re-read. Revise. Rewrite. Revise. Rewrite. This process may take a few months. I may then share my manuscript with my agent for feedback. Once my agent and I feel I have a solid story, my agent then submits it to various publishers we feel may be a good fit. Then, we wait to hear if the story will be accepted (an offer to publish made), or rejected (passed by the publisher). If it's accepted, I often go through another round - or several rounds - of revisions with my editor. Once we're done with the manuscript revisions, my editor then works on obtaining an illustrator for the story. Once an illustrator is on board, the illustration process takes place, which can take a year or more. Once the art is finished, the book is designed and printed and ultimately published. This entire process may take 2 - 4 years per book.
I do have upcoming books, and I'm very excited about them!
In March, 2019 my book, ""I Love Birds! 52 Ways to Wonder, Wander and Explore Birds with Kids"", illustrated by Alexander Vidal (Roost Books) debuts. I also have two picture books in production. ""How to Find a Bird"", illustrated by Diana Sudyka will debut with Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster in 2109. And ""Round"", illustrated by Lisa Congdon, will debut in 2020 (Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster). I am also working on a series of board books to connect children with nature - fingers crossed they debut in the near future : )