I am so excited to host this wonderful author, joining me on the Chitchat series!
Welcome, June! Thank you for being my quest on KidLit Oasis! Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
JS: The road feels like it passed in a blink, but it was long and winding. I started writing seriously in 2013. That is when I said, “Someday I’ll make money from this and see my books on shelves.” I joined SCBWI and slowly entered the realm of writers.
In about a year I sold my first book, but that publisher was purchased by another company and the book was never published. It wasn’t until late 2017 that I had interest from another editor on a new manuscript. In the year that followed I sold my debut book, ODD ANIMAL ABC’S, two educational work-for-hires, and the second trade book SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH.
And of course, now I’m introducing my latest book HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, THE GENTLE GIANT.
Q: I can't wait to read that one! 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?
JS: Publishing is static. You may have radio silence for six months, you may get three contracts in the next six months. It isn’t like a 9-5 job that is predictable and constant.
I stay motivated because I have to daydream, I can’t function without it. Those ideas in my head are sometimes crap, but every now and again one is shiny and rough. You can see the potential! You have to see where it goes.
Plus, nothing is more rewarding than doing author visits and seeing kids get excited about your books, the topics you discuss together, and the ideas they come up with thanks, in part, to you as an artist. We are building readers and thinkers and artists and that is pretty cool.
Q: It certainly is, I absolutely agree there! 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?
JS: When I finally stopped trying to get a story perfect on the first try, I became a better writer.
Sometimes I have to take one idea and write it from a different character’s POV, or go from humorous and goofy to lyrical and serious, or play with the structure itself. It is a lot more work, but I get to know my story better this way.
I look back at what I kept in every version. That is the heart of my story. Once I figure that out I can focus better during the revisions.
Q: What do you consider your biggest publishing career accomplishment so far? On the flip side, what are some of the things you'd like to accomplish in the next year from now?
JS: I think getting a Kirkus starred review and going into a second printing before my pub date with SHE LEADS was a huge accomplishment. And SHE LEADS becoming a series was amazing.
For the next year, I’m hoping to find an agent who gets my work, both sweet and lyrical, and pun-filled goofiness. I’m looking for the long haul and want a solid partner along the way.
Q: That is impressive indeed! Congratulations! And I'm rooting for you finding that perfect partner soon. What is your vision for your new book? What kind of impact do you hope it would have on readers?
JS: For HE LEADS: MOUNTAIN GORILLA, THE GENTLE GIANT and the whole LEADS series, I hope they help make kids curious about amazing animals, makes them want to help and protect endangered animals, and most importantly, I want them to think about what makes a good leader.
The silverback gorilla is strong enough to flip a car, but he’ll play gently with the young. He has canine teeth as long as your finger, but he’ll fade into the forest with his troop to avoid confrontation.
It isn’t just the biggest and toughest. It is the smart, patient, protective, calm, caring that helps keep their groups or family safe, healthy, and happy. I want us to learn from nature.
Interior spread, art by Yumi Shimokawara
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?
JS: HEAR THEM ROAR is a novelty sound book about endangered animals from around the world. You’ll be able to hear the real chirps, booms, songs, cries, howls, and of course, roars of each animal highlighted.
THEY LEAD will follow the gray wolf breeding pair (aka alphas) and shows how teamwork makes a pack successful.
I cannot stress enough how important teamwork is! What a strong message!
Thank you, June, that was a great insight and I hope readers are inspired by your journey. I encourage everyone to check out your books and also other titles from Familius as they are a wonderful publisher!
Connect with June Smalls:
June Smalls is a children’s author of fiction and nonfiction including Odd Animal ABC’s and He Leads: Mountain Gorilla, the Gentle Giant. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and a lover of literature. She resides in northern Virginia with her family and an ever-growing assortment of animals.
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
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4/19/2022 10:02:01 am
Thanks June for inspiring me to stay with the long writing journey!!!
4/19/2022 05:28:35 pm
It is long. But it is worth it!
4/20/2022 04:16:57 am
Thanks, Rosie and June for a great interview! It’s very encouraging to hear that publishing is such a slow moving industry and you kept with it!! Now you are KIRKUS starred review and series author spreading joy to school kids! I’ll keep daydreaming too. Congrats!
4/21/2022 10:17:16 am
Congrats, June! Looking forward to reading your latest book.
4/22/2022 11:01:52 am
I love reading author interviews! This would be a wonderful book to add to my classroom library!
4/25/2022 01:44:25 pm
Very much looking forward to checking out your work, June. -from your VA neighbor in Culpeper! :)
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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.