Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold is the picture book author of 21 books, with over one million books sold. Her books have garnered honors from Best First Book by a New Author to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Smithsonian Notable. Recent books include the bilingual Galápagos Girl and Lost. Found., both Junior Library Guild selections. Lost. Found. received three starred reviews and was illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Matthew Cordell.
Growing up on the Kansas prairies, Marsha lived in Northern California most of her life. Now she lives with her husband in Florida, near the Caloosahatchee River and her family. Besides creating stories, she loves scuba diving, hiking, traveling, gardening, and climbing trees.
My creative process can be quite messy! Although I think it’s an excellent practice, I don’t usually work on my stories every day. But when I’m excited about a story, I’ll write several hours a day because I’m so happy to be with my characters. Right now I have four stories I'm excited about completing.
I get ideas from everywhere, but weaving those ideas into stories is always a challenge. I might see or hear something, then scribble a few words in my notebook or onto the computer. I might carry that idea in my head for days or months until another thought comes to me and another. Eventually, all the ideas tell me to sit down and start writing. So I do!
Writing books requires lots of research, even if it’s a short picture book or board book. Research is one way to help “capture” our ideas and it’s part of the fun. We get to learn so much! My two board books came out in 2017, BABY ANIMALS TAKE A NAP and BABY ANIMALS TAKE A BATH. I probably did over 100 hours of research to verify the napping and bathing habits of baby animals, but what I learned was fascinating. My recent book GALÁPAGOS GIRL also required much research. It was very rewarding to connect with the specialized scientists who had the answers to my questions.
The hardest part about writing for me is to believe in myself. I often stop writing because I have doubts about my ability to write the story the way I want it to be. If any writer has similar doubts, I say, “Don’t listen to your doubts!” We just need to take our ideas and enjoy the process of telling our story.
When I was small, my family didn't have much money, but my grandmother made sure I had Little Golden Books, which at that time cost only 25 cents. She read the books to me regularly and I adored them...and her.
Let your budding readers see YOU reading. Have a basket or bookcase in your child's room filled with their favorite books and let them also see your bookcase and shelves filled with books and magazines. Be their model. They will want to do what you do.
I do! In March 2018, BADGER'S PERFECT GARDEN will arrive from Sleeping Bear Press. Badger has been planning all year for the perfect garden, but unexpected rain changes his perfect plans. I like the way Publisher's Weekly put it: "Arnold imparts a relatable message: thwarted plans can yield unexpected gifts." In April, MINE. YOURS. comes out from KidsCanPress, with delightful illustrations by Qin Leng. This is a nearly wordless picture book about sharing, friendship, and belonging. LIGHTS OUT! will be on the scene in 2020 from Creative Editions. It's about a subject I'm passionate about - light pollution. The story is told from the point of view of animals searching for the dark, as light disrupts their lives.
My pre-school children and their friends inspired me to start writing. I had always been a reader, but never thought about writing before that. I began with a weekly newspaper column entitled "homegrown treasures." It received several California Newspaper awards. I wrote it for 10 years, which helped my writing skills and my writing discipline. My first picture book came out 10 years after I began the column. Picture books are my true love. I believe the best picture books take an idea or theme and condense it into its essence.
If you know my books, you probably know that I love animals. If I weren't a children's book author, I'd like to be a wildlife photographer or a scientist who studies animals. My recent book, GALÁPAGOS GIRL, was inspired by Valentina Cruz, a scientist and naturalist guide. I'd love to do that kind of work.
Morning is the best time for me to write. However, it's also the best time for me to do everything else! It's challenging to get everything done in the morning hours.
I love to travel! For many years, my husband and I were scuba divers - diving with colorful fish and even sharks was exciting. When I'm not traveling, I enjoy being with my family at home, gardening, reading, hiking, and bicycling.