Please tell me a bit about yourself—your background in writing for children and in other genres.
I am an award-winning, best-selling author of fourteen children's books and three popular book series. I focus on writing fun, imaginative, colorful stories. For many years I was a freelance writer and wrote feel-good articles about children and families, but for the last three years I have been focused on my journey as a children's book author.
What inspired you to write children's books?
I am a mom of two teenagers, one of which has special needs. My son was a 25 week preemie and weighed 1 pound 11 ounces. He spent 143 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, NICU, and I would spend my days reading to him there. This instilled a love of picture books that he still has today.
What inspired you to write the counting book, Ten Little Sandpipers? How did this story come to be? And what about Ninja School Rules? They both come out August 2021, yes?
I wrote Ten Little Sandpipers after sitting on the beach one morning while my daughter was surfing. I watched the adorable little birds running back and forth toward and away from the waves and I thought that was a cute idea for a counting book. I started writing it right then and there. I wrote Ninja School Rules around my own family's experience with martial arts. My daughter is a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and I have seen how important the lessons of respect, focus, confidence, and kindness are. I wanted to write a book about these important aspects of martial arts with a strong focus on friendship. These two books will be launched in late summer of this year.
How did you come up with your characters for these two books?
My illustrator, Nejla Shojaie, designed the look of the sandpipers, after seeing photos of real sandpipers here in Huntington Beach, California. The characters in Ninja School Rules are all based off real kids! The ninjas were chosen in a couple of ways, First, I had a social media contest where anyone could enter for a chance to have their favorite child featured in the book. That is how we chose the five ninjas on the cover. Second, as part of my Kickstarter campaign, there was a reward where you could pledge my campaign and feature a ninja of your choice. That's how the Ultimate Ninjas were chosen.
What illustrated scene from each book is your favourite, and why? How did you come to work with Nejla Shojaie?
My favorite scene from Ten Little Sandpipers is the sunset scene where the sandpipers are winding down their day. It is my favorite because it is based off the beautiful sunsets we have here in California. One of my favorite scenes in Ninja School Rules is the first page of the story when the new students enter the room and they are both excited and scared. It's how they look in real life the first time they come to try a class. Nejla Shojaie and I have been working together since my first book, Ruby the Rainbow Witch: A Picture-Perfect Rainbow Day. We connected on a website called Freelancer. I posted that I was looking for someone to illustrate a children's book and she was one of many that responded. I put out a challenge to my top 10 choices asking for a sketch of a 6-year-old happy little girl in a twirl dress. When I opened her email, I knew she was the perfect illustrator for me. She gets me and she does such an amazing job.
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What was the most challenging part of writing/creating this particular story? How has it been fundraising via Kickstarter?
The most challenging part of writing these two books for me: For Ten Little Sandpipers, I wanted the rhyme and meter to be as close to perfect as I could make it. It took a long time and two editors, but it was worth it. For Ninja School Rules, I based this book off of some of my own experiences with martial arts, but I needed to convey a message that anyone could understand. This story actually had a complete rewrite at one point. I am happy with how it turned out and I am sure all the little ninja lovers are going to enjoy it too. This was my first Kickstarter campaign and I am so happy with how it turned out. I fully funded in six days, earned the Project We Love badge, and finished over goal. It is a lot of work and does require a lot of your attention. You really need to put yourself out there and push past your normal comfort zone, but it is so worth it.
Where do your ideas for stories generally come from?
Ideas for stories come from everywhere! Something I see on social media can spark an idea, like with my Ruby the Rainbow Witch series, my real-life experiences, like with my Goldy the Puppy series, and in the case of my Go on Vacation series, I had a thought one day about where all the elves on a shelf go after the holiday season and I kept going from there.
For the other children’s writers out there in my audience, could you share a little advice on either writing, publishing, or marketing children’s picture books?
A few tips for new authors. If you feel compelled to write a book, just start. That is the hardest part. Once you think it's pretty good, hire an experienced editor and have them go through it. Make changes and keep making them until it seems almost perfect. Edit it one more time and don't hire an illustrator until your story is done. When it comes to marketing there is no shortcut. Keep engaging on social media, play around with Amazon, Facebook, or Instagram ads, and join lots of groups.
How has the current pandemic changed or shaped how you write, how you publish, and/or how you market your books?
The pandemic really stopped me from doing in-person visits and events, however, I was able to do several virtual author visits, a few socially distanced in-person events, and I was able to focus on writing these two new books.
Please tell me more about your other books.
I have three book series outside of these two new books. Ruby the Rainbow Witch book series, has three books about a happy, little witch that lives in a colorful, candy land and loves making friends. Goldy the Puppy book series, has three books and a coloring book, about a cute, funny puppy and her silly adventures. The Go on Vacation series, has five books that spark imaginative thoughts about where these fictional and mystical creatures might go on vacation.
What’s next for you?
I have a few more books that I am working on in the Goldy the Puppy and the Go on Vacation book series. I also have another coloring book in the works and I am looking to translate my books into Spanish.
Tell me an interesting fact about you—something outside of the world of writing, and something maybe not everyone knows about you.
An interesting fact about me is that I was born and lived in Massachusetts. I had a strong east coast accent that I worked hard to lose. The only time you will hear it is if I spend time with my family back east or if I am really tired. Then I will have what I call a "Boston Moment" and it's pretty funny!
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