Welcome June. We are so proud to have you as a member of On the Scene in ’19. Congratulations on your debut book, ODD ANIMAL ABC'S. It comes out in April, just in time for warmer weather and educational family trips to the Zoo. Your love for animals really shines through this book, and it’s a wonderful way to introduce children to lesser known species. We can just picture children bringing this book to the Zoo or the Aquarium, playing “I spy” for their favorite animals. We wish you the best of luck with your launch!
Where were you when inspiration struck for your story?
I was at a yard sale wondering why the ABCs always had the same animals as when I was tiny. I've seen five-year-olds rattle off scientific names of dinosaurs. They are capable of learning more than apple, ball, cat, and dog. Then I couldn't get the idea out of my head. I even discovered that gorilla's (creatures that kids are now very familiar with) were once not believed to exist. Scientists had to bring back specimens. Once people learned about them, they became common knowledge. I wanted to do this with fun animals like the quoll or the numbat or the fossa and that is how Odd Animal ABC’s was born.
Describe your process of taking an idea and developing it into a story.
My process varies from story to story. Sometimes I jot down ideas, names, key points and then build from there. Other times I know how a story should feel, but I have to mull over it for months before ever writing anything down. The one thing that never changes is revision. I share with my critique partners, tear things apart and build them back up as needed. For me, as long as I keep that original feeling - the heart of my story - I can make many changes without batting an eye. Some stories have a number of completely different manuscripts, styles, POV, even main characters in order to find the right fit for that original story idea.
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to write?
I have always written. I loved words and books and stories for as far back as I can remember. It was just part of who I was. I wrote for fun all the time. Then after growing up and starting a family I realized I didn't write anymore. And I missed it.
I started writing again just for fun, for a few years that was all it was, but then I wanted to share my work. So, I got serious and YEARS later I have books going out into the world.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
I'm working on something every moment. I typically have a few manuscripts that I'm working on. If I get stuck on one, I jump to the next. My brain can’t sit still. Right now, I'm working on a chapter book and some for picture books, I've had birds on the brain. I live with note pads, post-its, and cell phone notes for whenever new ideas strike.
Where do you go to improve your writing?
I'm sort of addicted to learning. I watch webinars, attend classes, SCBWI conferences, I've attended Highlights Retreats, and I share with my critique partners. This way I am always pushing myself, so I never feel stagnant. I have a budget, but through SCBWI you can sometimes find webinars as cheap as $10. I’ve even gone to the library, picked up books, and started case studies. One day it was all Character Driven books and what worked. Another day is was Openings and how they made me want to turn the page. You don’t need money, just a library, a pencil, and paper.
What were favorite books when you were a kid?
Anything with humor, animals, and survival. I read the Saddle Club Series, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Cay, Calvin and Hobbs, The Secret Garden, The Snowman, My Side of the Mountain, Garfield, and any non-fiction with an animal on the cover. I never really had one favorite.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I believe the world is full of amazing things to discover and that learning and discovering should never ever stop. And I hope my writing inspires others to be curious about the world around them.