Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Kelly Lenihan. Her new picture book, Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship , was published by Artisan Bookworks. She explains her journey below.
But first, YAY- Kelly is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, click HERE. (US residents only, ends Nov 27, 2019)
Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship is my fourth published children’s picture book (that’s not including the foreign language editions or coloring books based on the picture books). Illustrated by Anya Macleod, the artwork is colorful and playful, exactly what I envisioned. The story and illustrations came together easily, both the illustrator and I enjoyed the creative process. Published November 1, 2019 by Artisan Bookworks, the book is available on Amazon or by request from libraries and bookstores.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for Pig and Mouse’s first adventure was my own childhood love of collecting treasures from nature: rocks, seed pods, leaf skeletons, feathers, abandoned bird nests, shells, etc. Often, these collections were started on the fly during a trip to the beach or a hike in the woods. My kids even contributed to my “science museum” throughout their own childhoods. Now that they’re grown, the collections have been condensed into a large curio cabinet in my living room. I still add the occasional rock, seed pod or feather — my eyes never stop seeking. To this day, I love to examine my collections and enjoy showing visitors my latest acquisitions — the thrill never truly goes away!
Please share some of your writing process.
I keep a running list of picture book ideas—currently it’s at 75—which can come from something I’ve seen or heard, a picture, just about anything can trigger an idea for a story. When I’m ready to start writing a new story, I scroll through my idea list to see what jumps out at me and start writing. For fiction, I can usually write a rough draft in one sitting, but the editing, polishing and fine-tuning takes a heck of a lot longer. Once I’ve been through a few rounds of self-edits, I share my manuscript with a critique partner and several beta readers for feedback. And of course, if it’s nonfiction, who knows how long it can take? I’ve been working off and on on a children’s birding field guide for almost nine months—there is a lot of research involved and then parsing it down into child-friendly bites.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Hmm, I guess I’ve always been a writer. From childhood through my college years, I was forever making up stories, often writing them down. I can remember sitting on the curb during school recess, writing stories and sketching while the other kids played. After completing an Associates Degree in Business and a B.A. in General Arts from the University of Washington, I entered the workforce. Throughout my life, this passion to write and to create has been the impetus for my career choices, including stints in editorial positions at magazines—both print and online—which eventually segued into the digital design world as I began overseeing corporate websites. Never losing my penchant for writing; I’ve been published in various magazines and enjoyed my own newspaper column for several years. When I became a parent. I delighted in sharing my love of the magical world of books by reading aloud to my two boys. Many nights, my younger son would place his tiny hand on mine while looking up with big, brown hope-filled eyes, (most likely as a stalling tactic) and plead for “one more story”—how could any parent refuse? So in the moment, I began making up stories. Fortunately, the ones my son had me tell over and over, I was smart enough to write down. Two of those stories were my first picture books to be published, The Skipping Stone, and Goober and Muffin, now available in five languages.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
The pull of creative writing has remained a common thread through everything I do—it is a wonderful outlet for all the information and ideas swirling around in my head. As a former teacher of multicultural arts and horticulture, I’ve been moving towards writing nonfiction picture books drawing from my own interests and passions. Currently, I am working two books that share my love of birds. The first one is a children’s field guide, Backyard Birds of Puget Sound, which I am really excited about. There are 70 birds included in the book and the illustrations are gorgeous. The second book evolved after two years of observing and photographing a family of bald eagles, from hatching to first flight. I loved watching the eaglets grow and the family dynamics were fascinating—compelling me to share what I learned and observed in my forthcoming children’s picture book, The Majestic Bald Eagle, which will be illustrated with my photography. I started out by selecting the photos to be used and then did my research to cull information to complement the series of photos. The book covers everything from habitat, behavior, diet and more. And after that will be a children’s gardening book, and then a children’s book featuring lore, crafts and recipes from around the world—I have a lot to draw from, from the curriculum I created back when I was teaching.
Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
My goal with my picture books is to always have extra special little details in the illustrations so the reader will spy something new with each reading. I really enjoy Animal Cafe by John Stadler. The story is a lot of fun and the illustrations are adorable. You can’t help but want to read the book over and over, laughing out loud at some of the predicaments. The illustrations complement the story really well. A recent picture book I love is What Would You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada. The illustrations start out as black and white drawings, and with each page turn, more color is added, until by the end of the story, the little boy figures out what to do in glorious full color. The exquisite illustrations are compelling, drawing you in to really study the details to see what changes with each page turn.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Don’t skip the editing process! Having your manuscript professionally edited is one of the most critical steps in the publishing process. As the author, you are so familiar with your book, your mind will convince you that what you expect to see is what you are seeing. And, unfortunately, Microsoft Word’s spell checker and grammar checker are unreliable — they don’t know your intentions and often correct things that are already correct or ignore things that are wrong. Choose your editor wisely—not your mom, not your best friend—not even your ninth-grade English teacher! Hire someone specifically trained in book-editing skills in your genre. It makes all the difference.
And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
That’s a tough one—probably mochi ice cream— ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of chewy mochi dough, for a refined yet playfully delicious dessert experience. You bite into a chewy, almost flavorless rice cake and are surprised with a cold burst of bright flavor. Imagination in every bite! My favorite right now is sweet, tangy mango, which reminds me of me—a somewhat shy person on the outside, with a surprise quirky playful inside.
Kelly Lenihan has always approached life from a unique vantage. Often inspired by nature; her discoveries in nature, food, and art fuel her creativity. Through her writing and art, she delights both in sharing her knowledge and helping others perceive the world with new eyes. Passionate about sharing her love of curiosity, creativity and exploration, Kelly started writing books for children in 2012 (two are in five languages). She writes fiction and nonfiction for ages 2-10. Kelly is an active food blogger, avid birder and hobbyist photographer. Following her lifelong penchant for writing and the power of stories, Kelly is working on more children’s picture books, as well, she has a couple cookbooks in the works. In addition to authoring her own books, Kelly enjoys assisting indie writers on their publishing journeys.
Author website: kellylenihanbooks.com
Author Services website: artisanbookworks.com
Adventures of Pig and Mouse: An Unusual Friendship is available on Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Adventures-Pig-Mouse-Unusual-Friendship/dp/0999120093/
Her new book The Majestic Bald Eagle is available for pre-order. It will ship Spring, 2020. https://www.kellylenihanbooks.com/my-books/majestic-bald-eagle/
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