Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have an interview with debut picture book author Hannah Stark. Her first book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, illustrated by Bob Kolar, comes out on August 6th with Clarion Books and has received fabulous reviews. Vehicle books are big in our household so I can’t wait for this one to come out! We are so excited to have her with us today to share about her debut book and her road to publication.
So without further ado…please welcome Hannah Stark!
Where do you live?
I live in Brooklyn, NY.
When did you know you wanted to write picture books?
Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed writing but never thought I’d share it with others, namely keeping travel journals and pocket notebooks. In 2004 I started teaching third grade in the New York City Public Schools. We did a project with the book Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. I was inspired by how this picture book grew awareness for the organization Heifer International and was positively impacting so many people.
My boyfriend at the time ran a non-profit in Senegal and we spent a summer living in Dakar. While he worked I did a ton of reading, writing, and exploring. I started writing down stories I heard the kids tell and making up stories of my own. By the end of the summer I had a notebook of stories drafted. I never did anything with those stories but for the first time my writing had arc. For the first time, I wondered if I could someday write my own picture book.
Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?
In 2013 I decided to apply to author/illustrator Pat Cummings Picture Book Boot Camp in Brooklyn with half a draft of TRUCKER AND TRAIN. Pat saw potential in the story from the beginning. She really challenged me to walk out of Boot Camp with a polished project and somehow I did. Afterwards, she encouraged me to start submitting the manuscript. Five editors passed on the project before Lynne Polvino at Clarion Books/HMH Kids believed in it and helped me bring my story into the world.
Can you share a bit about your process?
As a third grade teacher and single mom I write in spurts when my schedule (and energy level) allow. The first drafts of TRUCKER AND TRAIN were actually pecked into my phone while riding the subway to work. There are post-its of first lines hanging on my kitchen wall. I add to them when I cook or clean. Sometimes my boys help me with them over dinner.
I like writing by hand and draft in pencil in an oversized artist’s book. When I feel ready to move forward with a page or draft I type it up, print it, and then revise on that page in pencil. When I’m happy with my revisions I edit them on the computer, print it, and repeat the process over and over.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
For me, there are many ideas but not enough time. When I don’t get to look at a project for a few weeks because things are busy I usually start by just sitting and reading beautiful writing. These days that tends to be something by Jacqueline Woodson or Mary Oliver.
Anything you can’t live without while you write?
There’s nothing concrete. I think the only thing I really need is a reminder to be patient with myself.
Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?
I’m really inspired by Sophie Blackall and how she persisted with her career as a single mom. The Horn Book just printed her Caldecott Medal acceptance speech and she describes working on books at the kitchen table while her kids did their homework. That sounds a lot like my home.
I’m also inspired by Rob Sanders who I was in a course at the Highlights Foundation with in 2018. He’s also an elementary school teacher and has been creating books in the hours when school is not in session. I’m so inspired by his career that started as a teacher with a writing passion side hustle. I’m so happy to see his career really take off with the releases of PRIDE and STONEWALL. He’s also a super sweet person.
Dream project to work on?
I’d love to write humor. We laugh a lot in my classroom and I think I get kid humor but I’ve never tried anything like it before.
Tell us about your debut book.
My book TRUCKER AND TRAIN is about a big rig named Trucker who loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. One day he meets the larger, stronger, and louder Train. Trucker quickly realizes that Train is bigger, stronger, and louder but isn’t using his might for power. Instead, Train is well-adored by the other vehicles. TRUCKER AND TRAIN is a story about using our strengths for good.
I was inspired to write the story when my son was three. I saw how some kids in his class relied on their size and strength during play since their verbal expression was just starting to develop. I hope the book is seen as more than a book about trucks and trains for vehicle loving toddlers. I hope young readers and their adults will use it to open up conversations about kindness, compassion, and the idea that with great power comes great opportunity.
What’s up next for you?
I’ve been working on three non-fiction and historical fiction manuscripts. I love history and untold stories that kids can connect to today. The projects are geared towards an older reader than TRUCKER AND TRAIN but they are true passion projects and I love developing them. My goal is to get two of them submitted this summer. Fingers crossed!
And last, but not least, favorite 80’s movie?
Without a doubt it has to be Sixteen Candles.
Huge thank you to Hannah Stark for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut picture book, we are so excited for you and can’t wait to see it on shelves!
HANNAH STARK grew up watching her mom, Marisabina Russo, create picture books in her studio. She remembers a house filled with children's books as well as bags of teaching materials because her father was a teacher. Today Hannah's home is filled with picture books and teaching materials, too. Hannah has been teaching elementary school in the New York City Public Schools for fifteen years. She loves making and sharing resources for other educators and teaching kids to write. She was inspired to write her debut book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, while playing with her sons, Jackson and Travis. When not writing or teaching, Hannah can be found taking road trips and train rides to unfamiliar places.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Hannah visit her online or follow her on social media:
TO ORDER Hannah’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.
Want a chance to win a copy of TRUCKER AND TRAIN?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, August 8th! US addresses only please.