here or there, the path
sometimes smooth, other times rough-
love keeps us on track
the path by Angie Quantrell
photo taken in Montreal, Quebec
OCEANS OF LOVE
Written by Janet Lawler
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022
I love spending time at the beach! But a deep sea diver I am not, so I’m very happy to have Janet Lawler here today to talk about her new picture book, OCEANS OF LOVE! This new picture book is perfect for visiting underwater habitats without needing a wet suit and oxygen tank.
Welcome, Janet! You visited my blog back when Kindergarten Hat came out, which was soon to be followed by Good Night, Little Engine. Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to since then.
Wow! Time flies! Both those books released during the pandemic year 2020, a time that we all would like to put behind us. But I kept busy throughout since that is my way to handle challenging periods. And during the darkest months of the pandemic, I wrote There’s No Place Like Hope, an inspirational text to help kids get through tough spells. Optimism and hope help anyone facing uncertainty and upheaval, don’t you think? That book, illustrated by Tamisha Anthony, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year.
Ooh, There’s No Place Like Hope sounds perfect! What a wonderful way to spend that closed-up time!
Congratulations on your new picture book OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking Books for Young Readers, February 1, 2022)! It is beautiful! What inspired this story?
Thanks, Angie. I am fascinated by the ocean, and that interest met up with my desire to write another story in my favorite genre—the “love poem.” My first published book, If Kisses Were Colors (Dial, 2003) compares a mother’s love to the vastness and beauty of the natural world. After that, I wrote a few more about how moms and dads show love to their little ones. But I ran out of humans! So I started musing about different animals. OCEANS OF LOVE takes a dive under the waves in an imaginary journey that ponders how sea dwellers might show maternal love.
Lol. You ran out of humans . . . I love the way you moved on to ocean animals.
What writing journey did you follow as you wrote OCEANS OF LOVE? How long did it take from idea to publication?
The journey started over 15 years ago, in 2006. I had already written A Mama Bug’s Love, taking an imaginary love tour with a bunch of bugs. Little Simon acquired and published that story in a pop-up book format. I hoped to have another book to follow and so began working on the text that became OCEANS OF LOVE. But the publisher discontinued that pop-up series and passed on the manuscript.
Over ensuing years, OCEANS OF LOVE spent a lot of time in a drawer as I worked on other stories and projects. I am not sure what caused me to revise and share it with my agent three years ago. After only a few submissions, my editor fell in love with it and acquired it in early 2020.
I’m so glad you decided to revise and share it with your agent!
The text is perfectly enriched by Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. How much input did you have as your book went to Holly to be illustrated?
I was given a chance to comment on illustrators the publisher was considering, and I said yes to Holly! I made small comments on sketches along the way. But for the most part, Holly took her own creative path to where my words inspired her imagination. Her luminous illustrations add depth and detail to my text, in addition to a lovely added story layer.
I totally agree! Holly added lovely layers to your story.
Did you do anything special for the book birthday of OCEANS OF LOVE?
I did my first in-person event in over two years, in conjunction with the wonderful children’s department of my town’s public library. I wore my special fish earrings and my seaweed scarf. I shared the book and its background, and kids joined in a fun fishing activity before going home with fish stickers and a “Love Fish” coloring/craft activity (folks can download that for free off the OCEANS OF LOVE page on my website).
Fun! Thanks for the link!
What tip(s) could you offer to picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published?
I tell beginning picture book writers to focus on the craft of writing, so that the story is the best it can be before trying to find a publisher or agent. Early on in my career, I sometimes rushed to send out what I thought was the “perfect manuscript,” and the next time I looked at it (sometimes, the following morning!), I saw ways to make it better. I also tell new writers to research markets to make thoughtful submissions. There is so much information available now online about what different publishers and editors want for their lists. Target submitting greatly increases one’s chances of finding a home for a story.
Thank you! Excellent advice.
Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I am a Walrus Detective! The Walrus from Space project (co-led by the World Wildlife Foundation-UK and the British Antarctic Survey) is assisted by lay volunteers who analyze satellite images of the Arctic taken from space to see if there are any walrus visible. Anyone can do this, in spare time and with a little training! I am fascinated by this arctic mammal, which is why I wrote WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021). I hope you and your readers will check out the Walrus from Space project. The information gathered and analyzed will help experts better understand the impact of climate changes on walrus habitats.
That sounds fascinating! I was once using Google Earth, just popping around way up north of Alaska and Canada and spotted a beached whale on a tiny little spit of land! It was amazing!
Thank you so much for visiting, Janet! Congratulations on OCEANS OF LOVE and best wishes on your future projects!
Merry Christmas to you, family and friends. Sending extra special wishes and prayers for love, joy, and peace. And if you are missing a loved one and having a tough holiday season, may the comfort of the Lord surround you and your family.
Joy and peace.
Yes. You read that right. 42 years ago today, at a birthday party for my dad and my grandma, we wandered off for some privacy, as teens are wont to do. I know I don’t look like I’m old enough to know my guy that long (hahahahaha) but we were high school sweethearts.
It went down like this. First, he came to my house to hang out with my brother. And ride dirt bikes on ditch banks. With my brother.
That pretty soon turned into, “Hey, do you wanna go for a ride?” Ditch bank + dirt bike. How is that romantic? Tiny seat, two bodies, dirt and gravel roads along irrigation ditches? The dude ditched my brother for me! Sorry brother.
And yes, my arms wrapped tight around his waist, hanging on for dear life, wary of pot holes and bumps that would toss me off, riding a dirt bike with a cute guy was romantic! Thinking back, I have no idea how we both fit on that little seat. And survived. Without helmets.
Of course we saw each other in more than just the dirt bike situation. Church, high school, family get-togethers. We lived on one dirt road, my grandparents lived two dirt roads over, and his house was on the dirt road between both of us. I could literally spy on his house from my bedroom window. Not that I did. But I could have if I wanted to.
Fast forward (or is that backwards, since I’m talking about the past?) to the birthday party night. This cute, curly-haired guy asked me to be his steady girlfriend. He remembers better than I do, but apparently there was no hesitation. I immediately said yes.
And here we are. 42 years of best friends. We waited 7 years to get married (because, as I told him, if we could survive me going away to college, then we could survive anything). Got married, had two children, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, a house (houses), gardens, motorcycles, cars, an RV life . . . and plenty of fights, make-ups, adventures, disasters, learning opportunities, triumphs, and tragedies. But always, we had LOVE.
For us, it goes without saying that the Lord blessed us along the way and kept us in His care. Without His guidance and love, I doubt we would have make it this far. We are truly blessed.
I love you, boyfriend of 42 years. Hoping for many more adventures with my best friend.