Where do you live?
Ashburn, in Northern Virginia
How many years have you been in publishing?
I started my journey in children’s publishing in 2005.
How did you first get published?
I attribute nearly all my success to the connections and industry knowledge I gained from being an active member of SCBWI (for those who don’t know, that’s the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators).
How many books have you published?
I have 27 books out in the world, and 6 currently under contract, coming out between now and sometime in 2020.
Do you write full-time?
Yes. Hooray for that! But let’s use ‘write’ loosely, as so many other book-related tasks must share that writing time.
What inspires you to create picture books?
They’re just more fun to write than any other kind of story! So, I guess the pure joy of letting my brain enter that wacky realm, keeps me coming back for more.
What surprised you the most working as an author?
How motivated I would be to continue to sell more manuscripts. I thought once I sold one, the fire in my belly would dim a bit, but it had the opposite effect. The sale of my first book lit an inferno and I’ve been on a writing tear ever since.
What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Having my own schedule (barring any publisher deadlines), being my own boss as far as writing what I want to write/feel passionate about, and visiting schools and meeting the readers/teachers/librarians.
What do you find difficult working as an author?
Prioritizing the ‘tougher’ writing. I tend to procrastinate on the writing that I’m struggling with. I have been “writing” a middle grade novel for going on 7 years now. Ha! But I keep getting ideas or publisher asks for new picture books, and they get moved to the top of my writing list, naturally.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
Lots of things.
I go to the library and read books or if the timing is right, I’ll attend a writing conference, which always inspires. Sometimes I’ll meet other writers for lunch, or go on a weekend writing retreat. And my remote critique group meets once a month via Google Hangout, and often that is the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.
Anything you are habitual about when it comes to creativity?
COFFEE. I’m joking, sort of, but I just need to be awake and alert to be creative. Coffee helps.
Can you share a positive experience you’ve had in the kid lit community?
There are so many! I would say any time another author/illustrator takes the time to boost my book(s), attend a book signing, or refer me to a school for a school visit. Also, when I was starting out, a few authors took the time to meet with me for coffee – the dreaded ‘pick your brain’ conversation! I accept these invites now too when I can, to pay it forward, because I know there is nothing like talking with someone actually doing what you aspire to do.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and any books that are in the genre/style you wish to write in.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Again, this is too difficult! Any time I sign a new contract for a book is a highlight – a complete joy and reward. I would say that the real highlights though, come in the form of the children I meet at school visits, who think I’m the greatest thing since…video games. I get big hugs and hear things like, “Can you adopt me?” or “This has been the best day of my life!” You cannot beat that.
What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?
It doesn’t matter how many books you have out, how many awards/honors you received, you will still have book events that are poorly-attended. Unpredictability is just part of the gig. Also, sometimes the book that was the ‘best thing you ever wrote’ and took you forever to get right, does not sell, but the one that just poured out in no time, gets scooped up right away.