Author Barb Rosenstock on How to Craft NF Bios- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

Posted on

Hello world!!

Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome an author who needs no introduction, and who landed a Caldecott Honor in 2015 among many other awards: Barb Rosenstock. Read below to see her journey creating Mornings with Monet, a nonfiction picture book, illustrated by Mary Grandpré and published by Knopf / Penguin Random House. It’s fascinating how she sifted through various facts during her research phase, and focused on what she felt a personal connection to, and what had kid-appeal.

BUT first- YAY! Barb is generously giving away a free copy of Mornings with Monet (U.S. shipping only). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Contest ends March 29, 2021.

 

Please describe the journey to publication for Mornings with Monet.
I grew up in Chicago and have loved the Monet and his artist friends since first seeing their work in the Impressionist Wing at The Art Institute as a child. It’s easy art to love, colorful and for the most part gentle subject matter. Mary Grandpré and I have done 3 art books together: The Noisy Paint Box, Vincent Can’t Sleep and Through the Window. I kind of wanted to round it to an even number of four books. I first started looking into female Impressionist, Mary Cassatt. After a bit of research, I just wasn’t drawn to the subject. I decided to try to tackle the most famous Impressionist, the first Impressionist, Claude Monet.  I thought I’d be writing about Monet and his garden, or Monet and the first Impressionist exhibition, or his Haystack series paintings, which were all big topics. But books do what they need to do, and this one needed to be a very small story.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I would typically attempt to start a book in a subject’s childhood, but Monet’s young years were not all that compelling. Also, as I began researching, there was a lot about Monet the man that I found unappealing. In spite of his many character flaws, his glorious art kept calling me. I decided to look into specifically how he created his art, his process. I wasn’t originally aware that at times Monet actually painted from a boat. I liked that boat more than anything else in his whole life, and so I thought I’d set myself the challenge of building an entire picture book biography that takes place in about a roughly 4-hour painting session on the boat. It worked, thanks to Mary Grandpré’s stunning art!

What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I’m never sure enough of myself as a writer that I’m at all clear on what my “writing process” is anyhow. I sit down and write, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it does not, that is the process.  Every book takes the time and energy it needs and each time I sit down to do a book, I’m not sure how (or if) it’s going to work out. Basically, I just keep asking questions, first of the research and later of my own words. Questions like:  So what? What does that mean? Is that what you’re trying to say really? Is that logical? What does it feel like? Will kids find this interesting? For me the process is answering my own questions. After a decade at it, it’s just a process of trusting that my curiosity will eventually shape itself onto the page.

Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wow, maybe you should tell ME which parts are compelling. But here goes, at least this is my favorite part, drawn from my own life (as well as Monet’s):
“Anyone who creates understands—that art is not magic. It is work…and work…and work, and then…it is magic.”

What draws you to the world of nonfiction?
I have always liked true stories ever since my maternal grandfather told me “true” (or mostly true J) family stories. I liked historical fiction and history-based nonfiction the most as a child and read a ton of it at my public and school libraries. I still like true or “based on truth” movies better than anything fictional. I think the idea that a story is real makes is MUCH more compelling than anything made up.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have a book on citizen science and monarch butterflies coming out next year with illustrator Erika Meza from Knopf. And I’m excited to be working with Katherine Roy again on a book about the Sargasso Sea from Norton.  It was great to take a step away from history for a bit, but I’ll get back to it I’m sure. There’s a few more titles in the works, but no use talking about them so early, you know how long picture books take!

Please share your favorite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
The picture books that started me writing are still mentors: The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and my all-time favorite, Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. Favorite picture book authors include: Jen Bryant, Carole Weatherford, and Candace Fleming. I have been obsessed with every single thing Cynthia Rylant ever put down on paper for almost 30 years. I have favorite illustrators too other than the ones I’ve worked with: Elisha Cooper, Kadir Nelson, Emily Sutton, Floyd Cooper, Eliza Wheeler, The Fan Brothers, Jason Chin, Brendan Wenzel, Frank Morrison, Hadley Hooper, and the late Mordicai Gerstein.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Get the actions right and the feelings right, and the rest will follow.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
A dog, because…DOGS! They are curious, loyal, loving, understanding, people feed them and they can take naps virtually any time they want.

 

BIO
Barb Rosenstock likes true stories best. She is the author of eighteen nonfiction and historical fiction picture books that combine deep research with playful language. Her book, The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary Grandpré, received a Caldecott Honor in 2015. Other awards include the SCBWI Golden Kite, an Orbis Pictus Honor, a Sydney Taylor Honor, and the South Asia Book Award, as well as numerous national and state recognitions. Barb loves sharing stories and inspiring students in schools and libraries across the country. She lives with her family north of Chicago.

LINKS
www.barbrosenstock.com
Twitter: @barbrosenstock
Instagram: @brosenstock
Mornings with Monet can be purchased from:
https://bookshop.org/books/mornings-with-monet-9780525708186/9780525708179

47 thoughts on “Author Barb Rosenstock on How to Craft NF Bios- PLUS GIVEAWAY!

    Lisa Roullard said:
    March 23, 2021 at 11:18 am

    I like how you explained that despite not liking much about Monet the man you continued to be drawn to the subject and found a way to write about him after all. I loved The Noisy Paint Box and look forward to reading Mornings with Monet!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 23, 2021 at 11:30 am

      I was fascinated by that aspect as well

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks Lisa!

      Like

    carmelamccainsimmons said:
    March 22, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    I am putting this quote on my bulletin board. “…art is not magic. It is work…and work…and work, and then…it is magic.” Your book are mentor book magic! Looking forward to sharing Mornings with Monet!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 22, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      It’s a great quote, right? A good reminder….

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      My favorite line in the book, it just came to me out of frustration one day and I stuck it into the Monet book 🙂

      Like

    Sarah Meade said:
    March 20, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    I love your list of favorite authors and illustrators. Looking forward to reading your new book. It looks beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 20, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      I like seeing other favorite authors and illustrators, it grows on own “to read” list

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      So many hard working writers, right?

      Like

    RebeccaTheWriter said:
    March 19, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    I’ve been a fan of impressionist paintings from a very young age and every time I went to a museum I always brought back a poster to hang on my wall. This book looks gorgeous and can’t wait to read it. Congrats! Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 20, 2021 at 8:34 pm

      I always bought souvenirs from the museums I visited too 🙂

      Like

    nataliecohn0258 said:
    March 19, 2021 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for sharing about your journey and I love the cover for your new book Monet. I studied art history and I love art. This would be a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 19, 2021 at 10:38 am

      Not just for kids! That’s the best kind of PB.

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      I hope so! 🙂

      Like

    yangmommy said:
    March 18, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    What a lovely interview! I love the fun fact that Monet occasionally painted in a boat! Moreso, I love the phrase about art being work before it’s magic – compelling & brilliant! Looking forward to reading this & to reading your other works!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 19, 2021 at 10:39 am

      It’s those little details…we can just imagine him painting in a boat…

      Liked by 1 person

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks, I hope you like them!

      Liked by 1 person

    marty said:
    March 18, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    Barb, loved seeing the questions you ask yourself as you write. And find your choice of a brief time in a boat for the Monet book to be positively inspired. Looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 19, 2021 at 10:39 am

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      it’s all just questions, questions, questions (and somedays very few answers…) You just keep plugging away.

      Like

    Angie said:
    March 18, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Beautiful! I thought at first, oh, my cat Monet is in a book! LOL. Because I live with Monet. But not THE Monet. Congratulations and thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 18, 2021 at 1:41 pm

      OOOhhh! I’m sure your Monet is beautiful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        Angie said:
        March 18, 2021 at 7:25 pm

        She is. But also a daddy’s girl. I’m lucky to get to feed her. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Your Monet is now THE Monet.

      Liked by 1 person

        Angie said:
        March 24, 2021 at 6:02 pm

        I like it! She would rather have a live mouse though.

        Like

    Dianna Sirkovsky said:
    March 18, 2021 at 10:50 am

    This was most interesting! I am drawn to the fact that the book is written about a 4-hour span of time. Looks like a beautiful book – how could something on Monet not look beautiful (even if he wasn’t exactly beautiful himself!).

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 18, 2021 at 1:41 pm

      Incredible, right?

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      People can be heroes in different ways. No one is perfect.

      Like

    amyrsinn said:
    March 18, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Sounds like an awesome book. Can’t wait to read it. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 18, 2021 at 10:22 am

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:42 pm

      Thank you!

      Like

    pbbeckyk said:
    March 17, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    I can’t wait to read Mornings with Monet as I’m certain its art and message are beautiful. Thank you for giving us a lovely glimpse of your creation process. First the work, then the magic!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 18, 2021 at 10:22 am

      I love that concept!

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:42 pm

      First the work. Not the “talent” Not the “great idea” Just the work.

      Like

    seschipper said:
    March 17, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    The cover certainly captures “Monet”! We live in New Jersey but often visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art!
    The Impressionists, especially Monet, are among my favorite exhibits! Looking forward to “post-covid” museum visits and especially reading “Mornings with Monet”! Thanks so much for sharing this with us Lydia and Barb! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 17, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      I agree- fantastic cover!

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 26, 2021 at 4:59 pm

      This is all Mary Grandpré! Check her out on Instagram @MaryGrandpre, her fine art work is really wonderful too.

      Like

    chardixon47 said:
    March 17, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Thank you Lydia and Barb for this look into one of my favorite subjects–impressionist artists. I’ve been fortunate to see their work in museums. It’s like visiting another world. I look forward to reading MORNINGS WITH MONET.

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 17, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      Me as well, nothing like seeing the art first-hand…

      Liked by 1 person

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      I just saw the Monet exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago! Stunning! And there was Mornings with Monet front and center in the gift shop! (I didn’t know!) Great surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

    TerriMichels said:
    March 17, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    I love reading the back story, there is always something interesting and fun to learn. The cover illustration really catches the essence of Monet. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 17, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      Yes, I enjoyed hearing how Barb sifted through facts and found the “juicy” ones!

      Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      Mary Grandpre is one of our greatest children’s illustrators.

      Like

    Deborah Williams said:
    March 17, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Barb, I love how you were able to focus so narrowly on one morning session in his boat! I have a hard time narrowing my focus when I write biographies. Looks like a lovely boat!

    Liked by 1 person

      Lydia Lukidis responded:
      March 17, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      Right? It’s all about the razor sharp focus.

      Like

        Deborah Williams said:
        March 17, 2021 at 10:25 pm

        Ha! I meant to say it looks like a lovely book. But the boat is pretty, too!

        Like

      brosenstock said:
      March 24, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      It took awhile. But time is part of work, no?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s