Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for Have You Seen Mouse? by author-illustrator Beverly Love Warren! Beverly is one of my critique partners, and I am pleased as punch (can punch be pleased?) to feature her Happy Book Birthday for her new picture book! Be sure to download and print Beverly’s free coloring page!
Let’s get right to it.
Welcome, Beverly! Tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you, for the interview, Angie.
I live with my husband in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by forested mountains, valleys with rivers, and lots of wildlife. This setting, my faith, my family, and aspects of my childhood have been the main sources of inspiration for what I write and illustrate. When I was young, I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and therefore I chose to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I got a degree in illustration and design.
Shortly thereafter I married, and we settled in the Seattle area where I taught art at a private school that my children attended. During that time, a mother of one of my students invited me to an SCBWI* meeting. Later I became a member myself, and through SCBWI I got my first job illustrating children’s educational literature. Due to the many books I had read to my children and the material I was reading for illustration purposes, a desire to also write for children began to grow.
Then in 2016 my husband and I took a trip to New Zealand where we visited the Weta Workshop in Wellington. This is where the props for the Lord of the Rings movies were made. That trip cemented my desire. After returning home I began my first writing course, Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic.
*SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Beverly, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a critique partner with you! It was so much fun to be a part of the process and to see your book come to life! And New Zealand is on my bucket list!
Happy Book Birthday! What was your inspiration for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?
My husband and I like to take road trips when time permits. In October 2019 we were traveling through northern Idaho when I gazed into the forest at a fallen tree. In my imagination I saw a bear sitting on the tree weeping. I wondered why and concluded that he lost his best friend and couldn’t find him. I happened to have my notebook with me and I immediately wrote the draft. The bear became the protagonist, but I needed to know who his friend would be. I thought back to my childhood and remembered all the mice I had as pets and decided that a little mouse would make a perfect best friend.
That’s a fun way to begin a story! I’ve jotted down ideas for several stories doing the same thing, sitting in the passenger seat while my husband drives us around on road trips.
What was your journey for this book?
In February 2019 I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Her challenge was to write a new picture book draft each month for 12 months. HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE? was November’s draft. I went through the revision process both in the 12×12 forum and with my critique groups. (Thank you, Angie!)
In January 2020 I took Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy Illustration course. At the end of this 6-week course, the completed art of each student would be viewed by selected editors and agents. I had hoped and prayed there would be interest in my illustrations, but I needed to leave the class during the fifth week because my mother became ill. Mira entered my art in the viewing anyway and about a month later Callie Metler, publisher of Clear Fork/Spork, contacted me. She was interested in having me illustrate a picture book. After reading the manuscript she sent, I signed the contract. While working with Callie on that book, she said she liked the palette I used in Mira’s class. I told her there was a story that went with the art and asked if she would like to read it. Graciously, she agreed. Later she said the story was precious and then we signed the contract for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?.
How exciting! 12×12 is a wonderful resource and community for picture book writers and it’s fun to run into you when we are at webinars or online for something.
What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?
My husband may take me out to dinner, but he may surprise me instead.
Oh, I hope he surprises you! Surprises are fun!
I love the heart in HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?
As an example, and as I mentioned above–I remembered my mice, but I also had many hamsters. Once one of them got lose in the house. I looked everywhere, but I could not find him and concluded that he got outside. I remembered my sorrow and drew upon that for Humphry’s [the bear] feelings in MOUSE, and his search for his friend.
That’s the perfect way to build emotion into a story! I remember sitting at the dining room table with my family one day when I was in grade school. Suddenly my mom screamed. And we all jumped up to help her chase down the cat, who had our Teddy bear hamster in her mouth! Childhood memories are great ways to get picture book ideas.
As an author-illustrator, how do you both write and illustrate a picture book story?
I am primarily an illustrator, but when I begin a story I start with the text, not the illustrations. I see the main character in my mind, and I know the general premise or theme of what I want the story to be about. With pen in hand, I watch the main character in my mind move through the events toward the goal. Along the way I ask myself the “who, what, when, where, why, how, and what if” questions. This gets my rough draft on paper. Then the revisions happen with the help of my critique partners.
When the story is close to being completed, I will draw up a few character sketches and a simple dummy to see if everything is working. Once I am satisfied, I will illustrate one or two samples of full color art with watercolor and color pencils This is all done with the anticipation that I will be submitting them somewhere.
I am in awe of you as an illustrator! I draw excellent stick figures. At least my kindergarten students never complained!
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a middle grade novel about a boy who is fearful of growing family responsibility and goes searching for his father who has broken a promise and seems to have disappeared. I also have four picture book manuscripts I have finished or that are close to being finished along with some thumbnails and one or two pieces of final art.
Best wishes on all of your new projects!
What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?
Feedback is so important to story development. Others can see holes in a story that the author may be blind to or knows are there but cannot figure out how to fix. Feedback for illustrations is also helpful. Sometimes a page would be better illustrated with a distinct perspective, or the colors are not working, or a character needs more expression in the face or body movement. In other words, critique partners are necessary to help make stories as strong as possible before submission. Also, both authors and illustrators run into many rejections. A strong desire, perseverance and encouragement are important to overcome the rejections. Lastly, do not compare your journey as a writer or artist with others unless the comparison can make you stronger. If comparison tends to defeat you, then ignore it. We are all unique and our paths will be different. And if the story of your path to publication is strewn with obstacles and setbacks it may be the exact story that someone else needs to hear.
Thanks so much for the encouragement. Excellent tips!
Beverly, thanks so much for stopping by on your busy book birthday! Congratulations and best wishes with Have You Seen Mouse?! I can’t wait to get my own copy to read and enjoy!
Readers, remember the best way to support picture book writers and illustrators is to share the good news, purchase their books, and leave reviews. Thank you!
Find Beverly at her website.
Amazon Blurb: When Humphry, a bear, discovers his best friend has moved away, he searches the forest to find him, only to return home alone. It is then that he discovers how much his friend loves him. Have You Seen Mouse? shows the young reader the devotion and perseverance of a true friendshi