Welcome to KidLit Oasis the Chitchat series -- a place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
We have another amazing author interview with great insight, plus a GIVEAWAY!
Welcome back, Beth! Thank you for returning to the KidLit Oasis as my guest, which tells me you liked my hospitality the first time ☺, but it also means you have a new book coming out that you'll be sharing with our readers! Congratulations!
So, first, let me ask you this: I know that every book is special to its author in a particular way—how is this book special to you? Dear to your heart in a different way? What was the experience like, compared to the previous one? Is there an interesting behind-the-scene about the idea for the story, its creation, an unusual journey to publication perhaps? What stands out?
A: Thanks so much, Rosie, for inviting me back!
Maybe it was growing up in the country, or maybe it was just normal kid curiosity, but city sidewalk grates always caught my attention. What’s down there?
When I read an article about James “Smelly” Kelly, I had some answers to that childhood wondering. And he had such quirky experiences—comical, dangerous, bizarre! I was smitten! But with only a few anecdotes about his life, pulling together a story was a huge challenge.
After trying out a few angles, I examined his story through the “hero” lens. I had worked through ideas about heroes with Lizzie Demands a Seat and how we all need to step out of the “silence.” “Smelly” Kelly was a different kind of hero—an everyday hero. As I dug deeper asking myself questions about heroism and considered his “super” senses, I found my “heart” thread. The story became about finding our own specialness and where we fit in our world; about what makes a hero a hero; about the idea that we all have unique talents to offer. Those ideas, which I believe strongly and want to share with every child, make this story near and dear to my heart.
Q: And to piggyback on the questions above, did anything surprise you with this book or the publisher's approach to it (whether it was the same publisher or a new one)?Did you learn anything new? Was it harder or easier to bring it into the world?
A: Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek was the editor for both Lizzie Demands a Seat and “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses. While the process is the same and both deal with concepts about heroes, the stories are very different. The biggest contrast in going from manuscript to book was with illustrations. E.B. Lewis and Jenn Harney work very differently, and it was fascinating for me to learn about their processes and see the books come to life. I am so intrigued by how the editor and art director identify the perfect illustrator and proceed to marry text to art. I would love to be a fly on the wall and watch it all!
E.B. Lewis, who works in watercolors, says in his art note in Lizzie Demands a Seat that he used colors he had never used before. Clearly, we both pushed past our comfort zones with that book. Jenn Harney, who works digitally, also taught me about palettes. With her process, changes and tweaks were easy to make. We both had a lot of fun with “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses. I relished sneaking in superhero references, and she infused joy into all the action. I learn more with every book!
Q: When did you find out who the illustrator was for the project and were you asked for an input? What was it like working with the illustrator for this book? When did you first see the art and what was your reaction?
A: The editor and I shared ideas about illustrators. When she suggested Jenn Harney, I immediately explored her website and found glorious detail, unique characters, and scenes bursting with life. I was an instant fan! Jenn was wonderful to work with—always happy to revise and tweak as we worked through a few challenging pages. It turns out she loved her first adventure into researching for illustrations, too. She surprised me with the two palettes for above and below ground, fascinating detail, and creative ways to show the action that involved drips and leaks hidden behind walls or underground. The first tunnel scene took my breath away. The power of the palette! And the last page was so perfect—better than anything I’d imagined. I enjoy learning about illustration and all the aspects of it beyond the ability to draw.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish within the next 2-3 years? Any specific goals or aspirations—personal or writing related—that you could share with us?
A: I look forward to sharing my books with kids and sparking curiosity, creative thinking, and opening up their world. Hopefully, I can continue to chance upon stories that beg to be told that will help kids see the humanity in history and connect it to their own lives, as well as explore fun and thought provoking topics. I’m thrilled to stay on this path, and I welcome any opportunities that might come my way.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any other exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: I’m looking forward to the virtual launch of “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses at Second Star to the Right Bookstore in Denver on Oct. 17 at 4pm MDT. Please join in!
The New York Transit Museum is doing a virtual family program on “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses soon (date TBA). I’ll be helping with a couple presentations. If you’re interested in upcoming virtual events like this, please check my website.
And recently I was contacted by the Long Island Museum about a program they’re developing for schools on Elizabeth Jennings using Lizzie Demands a Seat. If you’re in a school and interested in the virtual program, please contact the museum.
I’m very excited about Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle which releases in fall 2021. It’s such a tender father and son story, full of energy and joy! Tad reminds me of all those students I had that couldn’t sit still, whose minds popped with ideas—kids who were challenged as learners for various reasons, and who pushed me to be a better teacher. Another story dear to my heart!
Thank you, Beth. What an interesting insight! I can't wait to read "Smelly" Kelly's story.
Readers, to support our featured authors/illustrators by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books.
I hope you enjoyed this post — shares are greatly appreciated. Thank you!
G I V E A W A Y!
For a chance to win a copy of "Smelly" Kelly and His Super Senses simply comment on this post and you will be entered. (Continental US only, please.)
Connect with Beth Anderson:
“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses
by Beth Anderson, Illustrated by Jenn Harney
For signed copies with swag, pre-order from Old Firehouse Books HERE or Boulder Book Store HERE and let them know if you’d like the book personalized.
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 Loveland, Colorado where she laughs, wonders, thinks, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same. Author of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET(S&S 2018), LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT! (Calkins Creek, 2020), and “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES (Calkins Creek, Oct. 2020), Beth has more historical gems on the way.
Hello, amazing readers!
Welcome back to KidLit Oasis ― it's always great to have you visit! This is the place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
Now, stretch your smiles wide and get comfy and cozy for a lovely chitchat because today we have another awesome creative on the Chitchat series... Children's author Deb Gruelle is here to share some wisdom, insight, and inspiration with us! Plus, she's giving away a copy of her new book, Sleepy Time Colors!
Welcome, Deb! Thank you for joining us on the blog. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: I never thought of being a writer. I always thought being a writer was far beyond my grasp, but I’ve always loved reading and loved words. My mom took us to the library often. I was a voracious reader. And when I learned words, they just stuck in my mind.
But the seeds of writing may have been planted by reading Raggedy Ann and Andy stories and knowing I was related to Johnny Gruelle, the author of those stories.
I grew up in Silicon Valley, and eventually started working as a technical writer there. This helped give me the confidence to write magazine articles and my first book on infertility and miscarriage. My first book was traditionally published way back in the era before social media.
When I became a parent, I saw how stories affected my children in such positive ways.
When my youngest son was just about to turn one, and my dad died. We flew from Colorado to California to stay at my Mom’s with other extended family for the funeral. As I connected the longings of losing my dad, what I wanted to pass on to my kids, and one small practical way to pass that on, the idea for a picture book came to me. I wrote it, edited it, then tried to sell it to a couple of publishers. It was rejected with some nice comments, but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. So I put it away in a drawer.
Sixteen years later, I went to a writers conference and submitted this children’s book manuscript. A large publisher bought it. Because Ten Little Night Stars did so well, the publisher had room for my second book, Sleepy Time Colors, which just released.
Q: What do you find most challenging in this business, either on the creative or publishing side of things? What do you find most rewarding? What helps you stay motivated?
A: I live with chronic health issues, so I find I need to pay for help for many of the business aspects of writing. So, that’s one of my biggest challenges.
What helps me stay motivated are the reader responses. I received an email last week from Grace, a grandma who said, “I babysat my one-year-old granddaughter last week. I read and reread and reread your book to her because she loves it so much. Thanks for investing in the lives of little people.”
I love that my book became a tool that helped strengthen the bond between this grandma and her granddaughter. That’s motivating to me.
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: Reading the words out loud helps me hear uneven rhythms. Having someone else read the story’s words out loud catches even more problems.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: My second children’s book, Sleepy Time Colors, just released!
Thank you, Deb, and all the best on your journey!
If you'd like to support our featured authors/illustrators you can do so by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books.
I hope you enjoyed this post — comments and shares are appreciated. Thank you!
Connect with Deb:
G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
Comment on this post by for a chance to win a copy of Deb's book (US).
Deb Gruelle is a bestselling and award winning, author who loves writing children’s booksto help little ones transition to sleep. As the great-grand-niece of Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, she grew up on his whimsical stories and enjoys being a third-generation children’s writer.
Sleepy Time Colors (Zonderkidz/HarperCollins, 2020)--playful rhymes allow parents to snuggle their little one in their favorite jammies as they lift the flaps to learn their colors.
Ten Little Night Stars--follow cuddly animals through their bedtime routine to prepare children to transition to sleep as they learn to count to ten.
And the winner is. . .
Ellen Leventhal!!! Congratulations, Ellen!
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's upcoming picture book, Sunday Rain, will be released in March 2021. It's a story that celebrates imagination, the love of books, and new friendships.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jessica Schmeilder of Golden Wheat Literary.