Hello, friends. So my pal Anika Denise invited me to be a part of a “blog hop,” a delightful arrangement where you respond to some predetermined questions, then invite a few others to do the same, and then each of them invites a few others to participate, and so on and so on. Only I couldn’t manage to get anyone else to agree to take the baton and run with it! I approached more than a few wonderful authors, but not surprisingly, most people (aside from me, apparently) are pretty busy at this time of year. So, apologies for messing up the whole lovely blog hop idea. I never want to be the one to poop on someone else’s party. But I guess the hop had to stop somewhere, right? Right??

Without further ado, here are the questions and my responses…

What am I currently working on?

Well. I’m finishing a revision of the first book in a new series I’m writing for Candlewick Press, called The Infamous Ratsos. I’m also getting ready to write the second book in the series. And I have a chapter book, two picture books, and two middle grade novels in the works. Whew!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm…I guess I’d have to determine what my “genre” is first, since I’m kinda all over the place right now! As far as picture books go, my work tends to be a little bit more subversive than most; I like my stories to zig when you think they’re going to zag.

Why do I write what I write?

It may sound selfish, but I write stories I would want to read. I also write stories that would have comforted or tickled my childhood self. And now that I have a son, I’m channeling that “boy energy,” too. The Infamous Ratsos is about two brothers named Ralphie and Louie Ratso, who happen to be rats, who also happen to be troublemakers (or, at least, they’d like that reputation). It’s told from the bully’s perspective, and the first story is an investigation of what it means to be “tough.”

My most recent picture book, NO SLURPING, NO BURPING! A Tale of Table Manners, came to me in a different way. The publisher, Disney, was about to launch a new series of books called their Artist Showcase, where they’re pairing animators with picture book authors. The illustrator of NO SLURPING, Lorelay Bové, already knew she wanted to do a book about table manners, so Disney came to me and showed me her work and asked me if I’d be interested in contributing the text to the project. Lorelay is a genius, and an artist in the classic Disney tradition, so of course I said yes! But I also wanted to do it because I think manners are really important. I believe how we behave is a reflection of who we are, and how we want the world to perceive us. And I think that when we exhibit good manners, we’re showing respect for those around us. So it was a topic I believed in, and I was eager to put my own spin on it. I didn’t want the story to be “preachy-teachy,” with children being instructed by all-knowing adults, so I was excited to be able to flip it around, and portray the dad in the story as a bit of a bumbler, with kids who are well-mannered and (thankfully) patient with him!

No-Slurping,-No-Burping!_Jacket_5-28-13

How does my individual writing process work?

Oh, boy. I’m still figuring that one out! I have a one-year-old, and his nap schedule is in flux right now; I used to write in the mornings, but now it looks like that might have to change to evenings. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about creative work, it’s the need to be flexible!

My ideas comes to me in all sorts of ways, but in every case, I just can’t get them out of my head until I write them down. With picture books, I can usually write the first draft in one sitting (and I prefer to do it that way, to keep the idea cohesive). Then I give myself a couple of days to look at the story from different angles, to make sure it’s sound. Then I share it with my “trusted readers,” i.e. my husband and my writing group. I usually tweak it a bit more after that, and send it to my agent. From there, it’s either more tweaking, or it’s ready to send out.

With the middle grade stuff, I write a few pages a day, and at the end of each week, I take those pages to a nearby coffee shop and assess. (FYI, I’m in the coffee shop now, writing this!) I make notes in my writing journal about where I think the story is going, and jot down ideas for changes and new plot points and character development. Each month, I send pages to my writing group, and then I consider and incorporate the feedback. Compared to writing picture books, it’s a slow process, but I’m learning to trust it. Even more than flexibility, creative work requires patience!

So…that’s it from me. Any other questions? Are you an author who wants to participate in this blog hop thingie and keep it alive? Let me know!