The Writing Process: an Author/Illustrator Blog Tour!

July 8, 2014

I was tagged for this tour by my fellow critique group member and author, Dan Richards. His beautiful picture book, The Problem With Not Being Scared of Monsters (illustrated by Robert Neubecker), comes out in August. I don’t know about you, but I still worry about who or what is living under my bed. This fun book flips the whole monster-under-the-bed scenario and puts kids in charge.


You can click on Dan’s name to follow the tour backwards as children's authors and illustrators all answer the same 4 questions about our creative process.


What am I currently working on?


My first picture book, Maddi’s Fridge, comes out September 1st and I’ve fallen into a marketing vortex. This is a classic "first book trap" –- forgetting to work on your next book. 


As I pull my writing life back into balance, I have two picture book manuscripts that I love and am polishing. One asks the question, "What do you do with a terrible day?" The other experiments with just how interactive a picture book can be.  


How does my work differ from others of its genre?


Like all other picture books, Maddi’s Fridge is illustrated, consists of 32 pages, and aims to tell a good story. Two things (in addition to the wonderful illustrations by Vin Vogel) make Maddi’s Fridge stand out.


Maddi’s Fridge is one of the few picture books to tell the story of childhood hunger in the United States. 20% of American children are at risk of not having enough food in the household. That number, 16 million kids, is HUGE! Maddi’s Fridge not only tells these children’s story, but also celebrates friendship. 


Maddi’s Fridge also reflects our multicultural community. Maddi’s best friend, Sofia, is Hispanic. Vin Vogel’s illustrations beautifully capture the diversity of New York City and of our country.


Why do I write what I write?


I write the stories that are closest to my heart. My own stories tend to be serious – why do prayers sometimes go unanswered (Soccer Prayers) and how are children supposed to cope with hunger (Maddi’s Fridge).


Almost all of my writing comes from something that I’ve experienced, seen, or heard. These life stories stay in my head, pestering me, until I put them down on paper.


The truth is that the subjects authors choose to write about -- from Zombies to Butterflies – don't matter as much as how we write. If we stay true to our hearts and write to our deepest hopes and dreams, readers will fall in love with our stories. 


How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?  


I am a drafter. An idea or story or image sticks with me and I begin writing. I often don't know if I'm writing something short or long, or for what age group. I try to write down the story as thoroughly and quickly as I can. I'm a big fan of Anne Lamott's "shitty first draft." The most important thing is to get that story down. 


Once the draft is complete I look for connections -- threads between the characters' actions that tie everything together. In other words, the theme. Once I have the theme (and it's often slippery and hard to nail down) then revision gets easier. 


Thank you for spending time on my blog. I'm going to pass the torch to two excellent children's book authors:


Arlene Williams is a writer/illustrator who has just published C is for Change, a gorgeous picture book biography of Cesar Chavez. Visit her website for a glimpse of her illustrations. I am in awe of the way Arlene combines color and texture to bring her stories to life.  In about a week she'll post on the Author/Illustrator Blog Tour. Here's the link:


In addition to being an all-around great person, Katherine Grace Bond writes young adult novels and is the founder of TEENwrite. Her most recent book is The Summer of No Regrets. National Book Award Nominee Deb Caletti calls the book "A story full of fun and heart." Learn more about Katherine and her books at Remember to check her site in a week for her post about the Author/Illustrator Blog Tour.


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All Maddi's Fridge Images are ©2014 Vin Vogel


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