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non-fiction picture book

Interview with Debut Author Lisa Rogers

Authors, book release, debut interview, InterviewsLindsay Ward9 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! This will be our last interview post for a couple weeks until October 3rd, as I’m about to have baby no. 3 any day now…!!! BUT today, I’m thrilled to be featuring the work of debut author Lisa Rogers, whose new non-fiction picture book, 16 WORDS WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEEL BARROW”, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, releases on September 24th with Schwartz & Wade books! So exciting! This fantastic book has received multiple starred reviews and is a must read for any picture book or poetry lovers out there! I’m so happy Lisa could share her work and process with us today…so without further ado, please welcome Lisa Rogers!


Where do you live?

Just west of Boston, at the halfway point of the Boston Marathon. It’s the place to be each year on Marathon Monday, cheering on all of the participants—my hands always are sore from clapping. Actually running it—which I’ve done four times—is even better. What a thrill and honor! 

When did you know you wanted to write picture books? 

As a child, I was a huge reader, fascinated by folktales, fairytales, and poetry, and the illustrations that accompanied them. My goal was to be a writer and artist. I wrote poems, drew all the time, and started a little family newspaper. I grew up to become a news reporter and editor. Then, when I thought it wise not to be working on deadline with a small child on my lap, I changed careers and eventually became an elementary school librarian. After years of immersion in children’s literature and learning from my students, I realized that writing picture books was what I had to do.

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you? 

You would think that my two careers would set me up perfectly—and they have—but I had so much to learn! Writing for children is incredibly complicated. This year one of my students wrote to me, “You taught me that a book is not just for reading, it is more.” Getting to that “more” is my goal. For me, it means writing about a topic close to my heart. I was lucky to submit the manuscript for my debut to an agent who saw its potential, and she sold it very soon after we signed. In the meantime, a committee of writers also chose that manuscript for a Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. That award was a wonderful boost as I pursued publication. Groups like SCBWI, the 12 x 12 writing challenge, and The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass. have been crucial to supporting me in my learning.

Can you share a bit about your process?

I don’t have a standard routine, partly because it’s hard for me to sit down. I do most of my writing in my mind while I’m doing something else. A phrase or sentence comes to me and that starts the whole process. I can sit down and set goals and get writing and revisions done (that’s where my deadline experience kicks in), but the inspiration really has to be organic. My favorite spot to get words down is on my patio where hummingbirds sometimes mistake me for a flower.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas? 

I live on a beautiful pond, and love to take a break on a late summer afternoon, hop in my kayak, and boat over to our little town beach for a swim. The combination of exercise and quiet boosts my creativity. If it’s blustery, I get out a canvas and do some painting.

Anything you can’t live without while you write? 

A pencil and any scrap of paper. Writing for me needs to be tactile, at least when I’m beginning a story, but also when I’m trying to find the heart of it. I’ve even written in the sand while on a run at Goose Rocks Beach, Maine, because I didn’t want to forget my thought. 

My daughter gave me a Moomin notebook with an attached pencil, which I adore, and which I used to write my next book, HOUND WON’T GO. Speaking of which, a big dog is essential to get me moving after I’ve been sitting too long. 

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?  

So many! I adore picture book biographies and nonfiction, and so do my students. When we read a great biography, they are so absorbed that they can’t believe it’s true. I look for that sense of wonder in any book, like Sophie Blackall’s Hello Lighthouse, Jessixa Bagley’s Boats for Papa and Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead’s collaborations. Margaret Wise Brown has been a longtime favorite, and I love Mac Barnett’s new biography of her. Illustrators: Shane Evans, Juana Martinez-Neal, Christian Robinson, Melissa Sweet and of course 16 WORDS illustrator Chuck Groenink! When I find a picture book that resonates, I want to live in that world.

Dream project to work on?

16 WORDS has been a dream project from beginning to publication! I couldn’t be prouder of this book.

Tell us about your debut book.

My debut, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW” (Schwartz & Wade Books) is about the inspiration for Williams’ favorite, and most famous poem. He wrote those sixteen words after noticing Thaddeus Marshall’s wheelbarrow outside in the rain and felt it was the most profound, moving image he had ever seen. 

Williams was a doctor as well as a poet, and Marshall was his neighbor and patient. The book parallels their lives of work and caring. The poem was written nearly 100 years ago, but Marshall’s role was only recently identified. When I learned about him, I had my own inspiring moment, and that’s what started this whole adventure!

What’s up next for you? 

I’m excited about HOUND WON’T GO, inspired by my incredibly stubborn, lovable, gigantic rescue hound. He’s brought so much fun and joy to our lives. One day when he, as is typical, refused to move because he wanted to go one way and I the other, the first few lines ran through my mind. My editor, Christina Pulles at Albert Whitman & Company, loves the manuscript as much as I do. HOUND will be unleashed, with delightful illustrations by Meg Ishihara, in spring 2020.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Working Girl! That puffy hair, those padded shoulders! Sneakers with office wear! I love it for its iconic 80s fashion. You’ll never see me in shoulder pads, but that was one empowering movie. 

Huge thank you to Lisa for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut! We can’t wait to see HOUND WON’T GO next!

LISA ROGERS is an elementary school librarian and a former newspaper reporter and editor. She grew up in West Long Branch, NJ, not far from where Thaddeus Marshall, the inspiration for William Carlos Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow," tended his garden. 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” (Random House/Schwartz & Wade Books) is her first book for children. HOUND WON’T GO, illustrated by Meg Ishihara, will be published in 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company. Lisa lives near Boston with her family and hound dog.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Lisa Rogers visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter: @LisaLJRogers

Facebook: LisaLabancaRogers

TO ORDER Lisa’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.


Want a chance to win a copy of 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW”?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, September 26th! US addresses only please.

Interview with Author Natascha Biebow

Authors, Interviews, Vet InterviewsLindsay Ward8 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have an interview with Natascha Biebow, author of THE CRAYON MAN: THE TRUE STORY OF THE INVENTION OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS, illustrated by Steven Salerno, which just released last month. How cool does this book sound?! I’m so excited about this biography and I can’t wait to share it and Natascha’s work with all of you!

So without further ado…please welcome Natascha Biebow!

Natascha Biebow author photo.jpg

Where do you live?

I live in London, England.

How many years have you been in publishing?

I published my first book in 1995, and have worked as a children’s book editor since 1993.

How did you first get published?

I wrote my first book, Eleonora, a true story about how elephants mourn each other, as part of a children’s literature course at Smith College. It was kicking about for a couple of years before I decided to show it to the publisher of a small children’s picture book imprint, ABC. I was surprised and delighted when she said she’d like to publish it. The publishing industry was very different then – no social media (!) or easy way to get the word out – so, though it sold reasonably well, it is sadly now out of print.

Do you write full-time?

I wish! But I’m lucky that I have a day job that I love – I edit children’s books freelance for big and small publishers, and coach and mentor authors and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission through my literacy consultancy Blue Elephant Storyshaping.

What inspires you to create picture books?

Picture books are my passion. I have an affinity with this young age group and love the synergy of words and pictures working together.

What surprised you the most working as an author?

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons is my first non-fiction picture book, so I was surprised by the amount of research and fact-checking that was involved, even in late stages of book production, and how much time this took. But I enjoyed doing it!

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

I love that you get a printed book at the end of your creative journey that you can share with young readers so that you can enthuse them with the story too. I love connecting with young readers (and grown-ups’ inner child).

What do you find difficult working as an author?

Possibly the most challenging aspect is that picture books evolve in the course of their editorial journey and sometimes you have to reconcile aspects of your original vision with the final version. This is part of the creative, collaborative approach, though, and leads to a better book ultimately.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

I look for ideas all around me – from people, pets, the news and experiences . . . I try to learn at least one new fact a day. A walk is often great for getting unstuck and figuring out stuff too. 

Anything you are habitual about when it comes to creativity?

I don’t keep extensive notes – most of my work is done in my head! I love stationery though – so doodling with colored crayons is a great way to brainstorm ideas and tap into my inner child.

Can you share a positive experience you’ve had in the Kid Lit community?

I have volunteered for over 20 years as the Regional Advisor for the SCBWI British Isles region. It has led to so many great opportunities to help learn new skills and make connections with people in the industry. I learned how to make a book trailer from fellow volunteers. I met my agent at the SCBWI conference in LA. I took a non-fiction writing course recommended by another writer that got me connected to the non-fiction Kid Lit community. And so much more! People are really very giving and supportive.

Recommended reading?

Yes, read read read every new picture book you can get your hands on. In terms of craft-based reading, I love Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass– though it’s about novel-writing, all the elements and thinking logic are the same for picture books.

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

I love that you get a printed book at the end of your creative journey that you can share with young readers so that you can enthuse them with the story too. I love connecting with young readers (and grown-ups’ inner child).

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

I was awarded a SCBWI Marketing Grant to fund a mini-book tour this May, and so I’m excited to be able to connect with young readers in person!

What is something you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

That I’d have to teach myself all about marketing and then implement it!

Can you tell us about your newest book?

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons is a non-fiction picture book biography: the true story of Edwin Binney, a man who had a knack for listening and making what people needed, whose love for color led to the invention of one of America’s most iconic toys – Crayola crayons. In a world where we take crayons for granted, what must it have been like to only have slate and chalk? It’s a fabulous journey of color and creativity, an inspiring story for the next generation of inventors who will be our future.

What’s up next for you?

Hopefully more non-fiction picture books. I am also writing a series of chapter books, which is a new venture for me.

Anything else you’d like to share with aspiring authors and illustrators?

I’ve realized that if you’re serious about writing for children and getting your work published, you need to make a real effort to carve out the focus and time and just do it. There is no greater writing tip than butt on seat.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

E.T. heart-warming, flying bicycles, “E.T. phone home!” – all part of my childhood.

Huge thanks to Natascha for stopping by Critter Lit today! We love your new book and can’t wait to see all your upcoming projects!

NATASCHA BIEBOW’S favourite crayon color is periwinkle blue because it makes her heart sing. She loves to draw and make stuff, just like the inventor of the Crayola crayons. She lives in London, where she writes, edits, coaches and mentors children’s book authors and illustrators at Blue Elephant Storyshaping, and is the long-time Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles. In 2018, she was awarded an MBE for her services to children's writers and illustrators.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Natascha and her work, visit her online here or follow her on social media:



TO ORDER Natascha’s books, ring up your local bookstore or click here.


Want a chance to win a copy of THE CRAYON MAN: THE TRUE STORY OF THE INVENTION OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS ?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, 25th! US addresses only please.

What's up on deck? Tune in next week for an interview with author Julie Falatko!

Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Beth Anderson

Interviews, Authors, Debut InterviewsLindsay Ward10 Comments
Photo Credit: Tina Wood

Photo Credit: Tina Wood

Happy Thursday Critters! I'm so excited for today's interview with debut author Beth Anderson, whose debut book AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET: BEN FRANKLIN AND NOAH WEBSTER'S SPELLING REVOLUTION (illustrated by incredibly talented Elizabeth Baddeley) is a non-fiction picture book about how two patriots teamed up to create a uniquely American spelling system. I'm a huge fan of non-fiction picture books, they are a wonderful resource for kids and a great way to expose them to interesting and important topics in an approachable way.

An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster's Spelling Revolution  written by Beth Anderson, Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster's Spelling Revolution written by Beth Anderson, Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley


Once upon a revolutionary time, two great American patriots tried to make life easier. They knew how hard it was to spell words in English. They knew that sounds didn’t match letters. They knew that the problem was an inconvenient English alphabet.

In 1786, Ben Franklin, at age eighty, and Noah Webster, twenty-eight, teamed up. Their goal? Make English easier to read and write. But even for great thinkers, what seems easy can turn out to be hard.

Children today will be delighted to learn that when they “sound out” words, they are doing eg-zakt-leewhat Ben and Noah wanted.

How cool does this book sound?! I can't wait for you all to check it out September 25th when it hits bookstores near you!

So without further ado...please welcome Beth Anderson!

Where do you live?

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog!

I live in Loveland, Colorado, but have been fortunate to experience life in various parts of the country. I grew up in Grayslake, Illinois, then moved to Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, Georgia and Texas. Now, I’m a flatlander who wakes up every morning and marvels at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

When did you know you wanted to make picture books?

I was a kid who always enjoyed writing and received a lot of encouragement from teachers. I took a few feeble cracks at writing for children during my adult life, but (pre-internet) never learned about the industry, studied specifics of the craft, or found my path. 

Then for years, as an ESL teacher, I used literature as a medium for language learning as well as teaching curriculum objectives. I experienced picture books on many levels and witnessed the magic they offered in the classroom and connections they built for learners from every corner of the world. When I retired from teaching, my students asked me what I was going to do. That old “someday” idea bubbled to the surface, and I came clean and admitted I’d always wanted to write for children. Their excitement at the prospect stuck with me. How could I tell them to chase their “someday” if I wasn’t willing to do it?

Can you share a bit about your process?

Once I discovered the joys of narrative nonfiction and historical fiction, I dove in. To start with, I look at various news feeds and other sources for interesting bits of history and current events. If an idea intrigues me, I read everything I can find online first to get an overview, then dig into other sources once I have a bit more direction. Often, what first interested me is the tip of the iceberg, and I discover that there is a more important story behind it. So I gather and organize information (a post on my method HERE), then brainstorm on vital ideas, kid hooks, and structure possibilities.

After all that, I start drafting and revising, getting the story down. Then I examine it, share with critique partners, and start asking the hard questions. How can I frame it to create a marketable hook? How can I enhance the story and emotional arcs? How can I make it matter? (the list goes on…)  Then I dive back into the research for specifics. I read other random articles about the topic or theme or a concept within the story – looking for something that will spark new thoughts. I search out more quotes from the main characters to understand them better. And the revisions continue.

An example of a second dive into research - After revising AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET per an editor critique, I felt like I had lost some of the emotion. So, I reread and looked at additional sources for evidence of just how strong Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s friendship really was.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

As I mentioned above, newsfeeds from various sources can spark ideas. Also, I often stumble upon interesting tidbits for more stories while researching a manuscript. New ideas can spring from something I randomly read or saw or heard. 

When I’m stuck, really stuck, in the midst of a manuscript, it helps to widen my understanding – reading related articles, checking for You Tube videos on setting or another aspect of the story. And recently I’ve realized (I don’t know why it took this long) that when consulting sources, I need to go beyond the chapters related to the topic and read the introduction and concluding chapter. As writers we know this is where the essence, interconnections, and implications are discussed.  

One example of how exploring related articles can help a story – While revising what will be my second picture book, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS, an article on how we tell our hero stories caught my attention. I was already seeing Lizzie’s story as a centerpiece in the context of “standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” but this article had something more. We tend to portray heroes as super capable people who bring about change on their own. But in reality, no one does it alone. Kids need to know that. The idea that these super people take care of things leads kids to think they don’t have a role. Each of us may not be a leader, but we all can participate.

Anything you can't live without while you write?

A computer with an internet connection, of course! Coffee and snacks also help. 

And taking “while you write” in a larger sense, I can’t live without my critique partners!

Favorite authors?

As I seek out mentor texts and learn from other picture book writers, I’ve definitely found some favorites who help me along this narrative nonfiction path: Barb Rosenstock, Mara Rockliff, Suzanne Slade, Deborah Hopkinson, Jen Bryant, Andrea Pinkney, Michelle Markel, Candace Fleming, and Lesa Cline-Ransome come to mind immediately.

Dream project or book to work on?

I can’t think of any specific project. Just any idea that grabs my heart, knocks my socks off with an urgency to be written, and has a hook that no editor can resist. (And no one has already written it!) 

Tell us about your debut book?

AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET hit me in the heart from the very beginning. Franklin’s quote, “Those people spell best who do not know how to spell,” brought to mind the endearing spelling of young children learning to write using “invented spelling.” I connected as a teacher, as a parent, as a linguistics major, as a history lover. I thought, wow, kids are writing just as Ben Franklin had hoped! 

In many ways, Ben and Noah are opposites, drawn together by their love of language and education and their determination to make reading and writing English easier. When their revolutionary attempts are rejected by the public, Noah keeps trying, and in the process learns that neither fame nor force can sell an idea that people see as just too inconvenient. Though the two great patriots don’t achieve their initial goal, Noah does end up with his great success, the first real American dictionary.

Children deal with our inconvenient alphabet every day as they learn to read and write. This book is my answer to all those students who asked why English spelling is so crazy. Another layer that drew me was “sounds easy, does hard.” I think it’s a great example for kids of how one seemingly simple, sensible idea may have so many consequences. The historical layer not only gives a hint of what life was like in the 18th century, but also introduces the idea that revolutions are not only military, but seep into daily life in varied forms. Elizabeth Baddeley’s creative illustrations enhance every layer of the story and bring a spirit of spunk and joy. 

The manuscript seemed to have special messages for me as a writer about the need to be flexible, patient, and persevere. But what I really internalized was the need to let our ideas “take a chance in the world,” and that often, no matter how hard we push, others will decide the success of our endeavors. So I offer up the book in hopes kids will laugh and learn, connect and question, and be inspired to share their ideas and let them morph and grow into something they didn’t imagine. 

What’s up next for you?

I’m looking forward to sharing AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET with children and experiencing a few more picture books come to life with illustrations and an editor’s magic…

A civil rights story from 1854, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS with Calkins Creek is scheduled for spring 2020. I’m currently in suspense waiting to see E.B. Lewis’ sure-to-be fabulous illustrations! 

Then comes “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES: THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF AN ORDINARY MAN AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY NOSE, also with Calkins Creek, illustrated by Jenn Harney, scheduled for fall 2020.  Set in the labyrinth of the 1930s New York City subway, a humble immigrant learns to use his natural talents for the benefit of all—and also finds out what it takes to be a true hero.

And there’s one more under contract that hasn’t been announced…

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Definitely, The Princess Bride! A classic! Masterful storytelling, unforgettable characters, for young and old, the joy of story, grandfather and grandson, twoooo love, lines that live forever.

AND there just happens to be one line in AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET that was inspired by a line in the movie…can you find it?

Thank you for chatting with us today Beth! We can't wait to see your upcoming titles!

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.

For more information about Beth Anderson and her books, visit her online at or you can follow her on Twitter @BAndersonWriter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

TO PRE-ORDER AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET ring up your local bookstore, or click here.


Want a chance to win a SIGNED copy of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET: BEN FRANKLIN AND NOAH WEBSTER'S SPELLING REVOLUTION?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, September 13th! US addresses only please.

What's up on deck? Tune in next week for Critter Lit's interview with debut author/illustrator Jen Betton!