Happy Thursday Critters! Today’s interview is with June Smalls, whose debut picture book ODD ANIMAL ABC’S, illustrated by Claire Sedovic, released in May. We are so thrilled to have her with us today!
So without further ado…please welcome June Smalls!
Where do you live?
I live just outside of DC in the Shenandoah Valley.
When did you know you wanted to write picture books?
It’s funny, but when I first started thinking of writing for traditional publication, I thought of romance. But just because I liked to read it didn’t mean I was any good at writing it.
When my child was little she loved books. I caught myself reading her picture books even after she’d fallen asleep. I loved the full and beautiful stories with short and pithy lines. I remembered the joy of discovering library books as a kid. Then I had one idea…it led to another… and then I couldn’t shake it. I had to write kid lit.
Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?
I’m an overnight success. It only took about 5 or 6 years to get there.
Like many writers, I had a lot to learn. My first picture books were way too long, I wasn’t leaving room for the illustrator, and I sent things out before they were ready (*The Horror!*)
Luckily, I love learning. I joined SCBWI. I joined critique groups. I attended conferences and classes. Bit by bit I improved and learned patience.
I’d gone from getting form rejections to personal rejections and finally I had two offers of rep from agents.
I signed with Rebecca Angus at Golden Wheat in 2018, sold two picture books with her and I did my first two work for hire books as well in the same year. I went from nothing for a few years to GOOD GRAVY! Four books with my name on them.
Can you share a bit about your process?
I’m weird and don’t have a single process. Some books come to me like a lightening bolt and I jot down a rough draft quickly. Some ideas need to marinate for a while. I toyed with one idea for months without writing more than the title idea.
When I write, I prefer to get comfy on my couch, noise canceling headphones go on (this also lets my family know it is writing time and not to bug me needlessly), and work on whichever project is speaking to me at the time.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
I tend to have a number of projects going at once unless I’m on a deadline. For me this keeps things fresh and interesting. Sometimes I just take a few days off writing and daydream instead. I do not live by the ‘write everyday’ rule. But I tend to write or research most days.
Anything you can’t live without while you write?
Not really. I love my headphones since they get me in the zone. But I’ll write anywhere and everywhere by any means necessary. On receipts in a restaurant, on my phone in a waiting room, or at my computer with a soda and dogs at my feet. I just have to write!
Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?
All of them! Inspiration can be found in everything. I love the humor of Ame Dykman’s Wolfie the Bunny illustrated by Zachariah OHora.
I love the read-aloud-ability of The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and illustrated by Katz Cowley.
I love the heart and art of Swan by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad.
I LOVE The Dot by by Peter H. Reynolds.
Just try to read these without feeling inspired. There are many more, but this could be a blog series by itself.
Dream project to work on?
Well, I’m a huge Scooby Doo fan…
Seriously though, my personal dream projects are the ones that make kids want to pick up another book. Whether to continue laughing or to learn something new because I’ve sparked their curiosity. There is no one book that is my dream. This may sound corny, but it’s all I’ve got.
Tell us about your debut book.
Odd Animal ABC’s is illustrated by Claire Sedovic and her amazing watercolors.
Those classic animals have been overworked so the odd animals who have been overlooked take over the alphabet and send the classics packing.
It's time for Aye-Aye, Fossa, Numbat, Xenops and more curious, yet real animals to shine.
Some letters even get more than one odd new animal. (This was not because I liked both animals so much that I couldn't choose just one... really…)
What’s up next for you?
I have a lyrical non-fiction called She Leads: They Elephant Matriarch coming out in spring of 2020 with Familius. I also have several picture books, a chapter book, and novelty books out on submission.
And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?
Only one!? The Princess Bride. The cast, the sword fights, the rodents of unusual size! Just a great all-around movie… oh yeah, and the love story too.
Huge thank you to June for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut and all your upcoming projects!
JUNE SMALLS lives in Northern Virginia with her hubby, the kid, and her own odd assortment of animals. She writes children’s literature for the trade and educational markets.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about June visit her online or follow her on social media:
TO ORDER June’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.
Want a chance to win a copy of ODD ANIMAL ABC’S?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, August 15th! US addresses only please.