Chitchat with Author Jenna Beatrice and Illustrator Erika Jones, Plus a Giveaway!
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Kidlt Oasis Chitchat series! This is a place to get some literary recharge, inspiration, and goodies, too!
I have two wonderful guests today -- an author and an illustrator duo -- and we're chatting about their new picture book, The Loud Librarian. Plus, there's a giveaway!
Let's get into it, please welcome Jenna and Erika!
Jenna, please tell us how the idea for this book came about. Walk us through the writing and revising process – how many drafts, how long it took to complete it, when did you share with your agent etc.
JB: I was brainstorming ideas one day and the thought occurred to me that it could be funny if a very loud student (so loud she could be heard in space!) was picked to be the student-librarian. But the rest of the story took shape through lots and lots of revisions. I wish I could share an exact number of drafts, but the truth is, I don’t even know how many! I worked on this story over the course of two years, so it was revisited and revised many (many!) times over.
I hear you, Jenna, I can totally relate!
Let’s talk about the submission process for this project. How long did it take from submission to offer? How did you get the news? Where were you at that moment? Can you give us the juicy details around that?
JB: This story has a lovely publication story. I applied for a mentorship through #PBChat, founded by Justin Colón, and was incredibly lucky to be picked by the wonderful Lindsay Leslie. Lindsay donated her time and talent to mentor me and to help make this and other stories submission ready. Lindsay taught me so much about storytelling and I am so grateful to her for believing in this story. At the mentorship showcase, The Loud Librarian was requested by several editors and an offer was made by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. It was an absolute dream come true! When I saw the offer, I was home with my husband and my heart stopped. My husband was on a call, so I frantically pointed to my computer and jumped up and down until he logged off. We both cried happy tears. Then I called my parents and soon after, I called Lindsay to tell her the news!
Wow, what an incredible story to publication!
When did you find out who the illustrator was and what were your thoughts about the pairing?
JB: Our editor Kristie Choi sent me Erika’s fabulous portfolio and asked for my thoughts. I had a look around and knew right away that Erika could capture the joy and curiosity of our main character, Penelope. Penelope’s loud and excitable energy was the only aspect of the story I was really thinking about at the time, and I had a wonderful feeling that Erika was the perfect pairing for the job!
Erika, what did you think of the story when you were approached about illustrating it? What attracted you to the book? Why did you decide to get on board?
EJ. I love it because it was the type of story I might have liked to write, but I didn’t think of it. In other words, it was my vibe (humorous, quirky character and just lots of unexpected fun) and it was being presented by a great publisher and editorial team, so I said yes. I could also relate to the main character’s passion for books. As a child I loved reading books and spending time in libraries, bookmobiles and bookstores as a little girl. So, I knew I could tap into that enthusiasm and add to this story.
Finally, I felt the story stretched me and my imagination about what was possible in a picture book in really positive ways.
That's amazing -- I love the way you connected to the story!
Were there any challenges in the process of telling the visual story? I know that the author and the illustrator are typically not in direct contact. Was that the case with this project? Or did you have any communication with Jenna while working on the illustrations?
EJ. We did not have contact during the illustration process. Jenna did have a chance to give feedback after the first round of sketches and again when the final art was turned in, but that was all communicated via our editor, Kristie Choi and the art director, Karyn Lee.
Jenna, when did you first see what your main character looked like? What was it like compared to the image that you had in your mind perhaps?
JB: When the “first look” for Penelope was sent, it was such a special moment. Being able to see Penelope for the first time after imagining her so long in my own imagination was absolutely wonderful. Erika perfectly captured her energy and spirit and I think I even said out loud: “there she is!”
Erika, what was your favorite spread to illustrate and why?
EJ: The spread where Penelope is in the library, ready to start her job as student-librarian. She is looking eagerly at Ms. Berry while two of the classmates are staring at Penelope. They are anticipating that it's going to be an “interesting” day. I love it because it captures the warmth between Penelope and Ms. Berry, and a bit of humor from her nosy classmates.
Jenna, what was your favorite spread when you saw the complete dummy and why?
This is a hard question! But if I had to pick, I think the scenes with the astronauts are my favorite. I love how seriously the characters take Penelope, and I think the visual of how far away they are perfectly captures how loud our little Penelope is!
This question is for both of you. What do you hope readers will take away from the book? What do you wish for this story to accomplish in the hands of children?
JB: What a lovely question! I hope little readers laugh out LOUD and want to read this story over and over. And I hope they realize they don’t need to change who they are to fit in. They can make their own space to showcase all the wonderful aspects of their personalities.
EJ: I hope children take away that whoever you are inherently, in other words whatever quirks, likes dislikes, you are born with… you don’t have to change to be like everyone else. You will in time find your purpose, your place. Just how you are - you will shine.
My final question is for both of you again. What’s next for you? What coming up, what are you working on, any new projects we should be on the lookout for, any upcoming events you’d like to share around the launch?
JB: I do have a new project in the works, but it hasn’t been announced yet so I’m afraid I can’t share more information. I’m excited to do so when I can!
EJ: My next book, Black Girls: A Celebration of You (Harper Collins) will be released on September 26 of this year. Dominique Furukuwa wrote this love letter to black girls and got illustrate it! I am also working on my author/illustrator debut, Zara in The Middle, which will be published by Harper Collins - date TBA.
Thank you, Jenna and Erika, it was a pleasure chatting with you! I wish you all the best with the book and your future projects. Jenna, I'll be on the lookout for that announcement, and Erika, I look forward to your upcoming release and to seeing you again around Dallas!
Dear readers, see below on how you can enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Loud Librarian. Also, make sure you connect with Jenna and Erika.
Order your copy HERE or click on the cover!
Jenna Beatrice is a children’s author, lawyer, and mom. She began her legal career as a lawyer for children before becoming a litigator and a trustee of a children’s advocacy center. As an author, Jenna now shares the joy of reading with young children. Jenna lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and their young son. The Loud Librarian (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster) is her debut picture book. To learn more about Jenna, please visit her at jennabeatrice.com.
Erika enjoys creating quirky characters and stories that affirm and celebrate cultures. Her creative mission is to show every child they are worthy of good and deserve positive representations of themselves in literature. She loves working in mixed media and collage because it reminds her of time spent with her mom, who helped make sure all of her school projects had that special artistic shine. She grew up in St. Louis and now lives in the Dallas area with her husband and three daughters. To learn more about Erika, please visit her at erikalynnejones.com.
G I V E A W A Y!
Post a comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Loud Librarian
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.