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Happy Book Birthday to HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?! Interview with Author-Illustrator Beverly Love Warren

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!

Download and print this free coloring page from Beverly!

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

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


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Meet the Authors: The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

Compiled by Bernice Seward

Seward Media, 2020

Hello, friends! I would like to introduce you to a fun new book of fairy tales. But these fairy tales are not what you would think. They have been torn-up, re-imagined, and fractured from the original stories we’ve heard all our lives. How exciting to read these “new” fairy tales in this delightful compilation of 5. One of my critique group partners, Beverly Warren, wrote one of the torn-up tales in The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales. Congratulations to all of the talented authors and illustrators.

Scroll down to meet the authors and read their individual answers to the questions I asked. Enjoy!

MEET THE AUTHORS

Bernice Seward compiled this collection of fairy tales. She wrote The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe

How do you know each other and how did this book come together?

Loreley: Most of us only know each other virtually as we live in different cities. We are members of SCBWI Inland Northwest and had all expressed an interest in creating an online critique group before COVID even began. Here we are! Bernice suggested we try a collaboration as we were all struggling with the COVID slump last summer.

Beverly: I met both Bernice and Michele at the SCBWI conference in September 2019. Apparently Loreley and Jess were there as well. We had the opportunity to sign up to join a critique group. Later we were contacted by the coordinator and put in a group of nine, I believe, which was then split in two. Personally, I had been thinking that I would like to write a fractured fairy tale and purchased Jane Yolen’s book on the subject. About two weeks later Bernice suggested that we do this project. 

Michele: I’m the odd author out here  The other four were members of an established critique group before this project came about. I am in a different critique group with Bernice and she invited me to join in on the collaboration. I know Bernice because I took a community education class on writing children’s picture books from her about 3 years ago. I happened to meet Beverly at the SCBWI Fall 2019 conference. She and I are in an online critique group. We are all members of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (I have been asked to join with their critique group and I couldn’t be happier!) Bernice came up with the collaboration idea after listening to an SCBWI interview at the Summer Spectacular (over Zoom of course.) 

Michele Rietz wrote Hector and the Three Granny Goats

What was your inspiration for your torn-up tale?

Loreley: Several years ago, I had traveled to Europe to live, work, and heal my wounds from my divorce. I was only gone just over three years, but when I returned to The States, I felt like Rip Van Winkle who had fallen asleep and woken up in the future. There were (at that time) Blackberries, Bluetooths, and Blogs! I didn’t know what these things were. HDTVs were in everyone’s living room. The Bon Marche was gone! It was all very disorienting. So this experience inspired my story “Rita Van Winkle”. 

Beverly: Beauty and the Beast has been one of my favorite fairy tales for years. I loved the idea that a beasty person can be transformed through the love of another and that within an unattractive personality there are traits that can be found to love if one has the eyes to see. Also, years ago I was interested in learning about herbs, common herbs that can be used for various purposes including healing. 

Jessie: Recently I read Invisible Women Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez and Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. The concepts in these two books as well as ideas about the invisible biases we absorb from society were whirling around in my head when Bernice invited me to collaborate on this project. As I contemplated fairy tales, I thought of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and wondered, what if it was a girl, and what if she was telling the truth? Tara and the Wolf was born of that simple thought experiment.

Michele: As a child, I loved the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  I think it was the rhythmic “Trip, trap” that I liked the most.  (Definitely not the gruesome ending.  LOL!).  I started my version with three nanny goats, but they evolved into three granny goats.  I am a grandma of 10 myself, so I can totally get behind that change!  🙂  I also wanted a gentler troll in my story, and since dads often get a bad rap in media and society these days, I wanted him to be a strong (as in involved in his kids’ lives) father figure.  Each of the grannies represents something I myself am known to do.  I am ALWAYS happy to have an excuse to make cookies, I grow a garden every year and I love to do yoga and recently became a teacher at the studio I’ve attended for several years.

Bernice: The idea of designing a shoe house drew me to The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. And the fact that the original story included a giant clinched it. Then, as I was brainstorming for my torn-up tale, I thought it’d be fun to create a sort of “origin story” for a certain legendary cloud-dwelling giant.

Loreley Smith wrote Rita Van Winkle

Tell me about the illustrations.

Loreley: I am not an illustrator, so when Bernice suggested we each create our own illustrations, I was very apprehensive. I’ve become inspired to work with collage art more and improve my skills 🙂 

Beverly: Art has always come naturally to me. I’ve created a few collage pieces before, but mostly I work in other mediums.

Jessie: I come from a family of artistic people and assumed from the time I was a child that fine art was not one of my talents. It was something other people in my family were good at. I have tried to express creativity with sewing, baking and most often with writing. As I experimented with paint, shape and collage, I realized that the only thing stopping me from developing an illustrative talent was lack of belief in myself. It was incredibly empowering to make a physical picture from something that existed before only in my mind. While my illustration skills are still very rudimentary, the use of collage simplifies the process, allowing simple shapes to convey the image and the textures created by painted papers to elevate them and give further interest.

Michele: First of all, I have NEVER considered myself an artist, so this was a HUGE stretch for me. Bernice has taught me a lot over the years, so I felt I owed her a good effort. Learning to draw simple outlines (just google something like “Easy Goat Drawing”) was the start. She had me over to paint some papers for the collage illustrations and from there I took it one illustration at a time. Bernice also provided us with how-to videos she created. Those were very helpful and easy to follow. I am thrilled with how my illustrations turned out and I now consider myself a “Collage artist”.

My inspiration for my troll came from a wooden sculpture in Breckenridge, Colorado. My college freshman roommates and I get together every two years or so and on our last reunion, I talked them into finding it. It was amazing.

Jessie Quist wrote Tara and the Wolf

What surprises did you discover in the process of creating this book?

Loreley: I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the process of creating the illustrations. While it was a bit nerve racking, I found myself getting lost in the process. 

Beverly: We created the book quickly so the process was intensive, but it was enjoyable for us to do this project together. Also, I discovered as I did some research on the history of Beauty and the Beast that there lived a true Beauty who married a Beast in the 16th Century, in France. The beast was a man who had a condition called Hypertrichosis (werewolf syndrome). His body was covered with long dark hair all over. It is rare and is due to an abnormal 8th chromosome. The man was the property of the king of France. When the king died the Queen decided he should marry. She interviewed many young women and chose one with great beauty. The girl didn’t know about her groom’s appearance until their wedding day. Imagine her shock, but she grew to love him because of his winning personality. Together they had seven children.

Michele: I don’t think it was a surprise as much as confirmation of the importance of critique groups. We each read each other’s stories many times to help work out rough spots, kinks, etc. When I was being resistant to changing something in my story, one of the group called me to help me realize I really needed to “kill my darling”. My story is stronger for it and I’m glad she took initiative to do that. My illustrations coming together were definitely a surprise for me. (See question 3. 🙂 I also discovered that I like writing fractured fairy tales. I had dabbled in that genre a bit, but diving in and completing one was really fun.

Bernice: As a picture book writer (who strives to tell stories in 550 words or less), the thought of writing thousands of words is daunting for me. I was surprised that my first draft of The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe topped 1900 words. This gives me hope that fleshing out stories for chapter books will be a smoother transition than I’ve been anticipating.

Beverly Love Warren wrote Beau and the Belle Rose

What plans do you have for the future? Are there any other book projects in the making?

Loreley: I’m currently working on a picture book where my protagonist learns the importance of “leaving only footprints and taking only photos” when exploring nature. 

Beverly: We are continuing to meet as a group. We’ve only discussed briefly doing another project in the future and no plans have been formed yet. Currently I am illustrating a picture book for Clear Fork/Spork Publishing which should come out in the fall. Also, I’m revising a picture book and writing a middle grade novel. 

Jessie: I have two board books in the works as well as an illustration project commissioned by a friend. We haven’t formalized any plans for another joint publication, but I hope we will be creating more torn up tales together in the future.

Michele: Personally, I have a pet project in the works which involves using my grandchildren’s names in the illustrations. I have an illustrator working on it and we hope to be finished in the next month or so. I will self-publish that book. I also have countless manuscripts in various stages of completion. For the group, there really isn’t anything in the near future, but I have expressed a hope we’ll do another collaboration with this group. They are a wonderfully generous and creative group, and I have learned so much from them. We do plan to meet in person once the pandemic is past. We don’t know what that will look like, but we have all expressed a desire to do that.

Bernice: Currently, I’m working on a picture book about a bear who loses his hair after trying shampoo from a traveling salesman (fox).

Thank you, ladies, for sharing more about your lives and your process for writing The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales.

You can read more about the authors and this fun fairy tale book at:

http://www.berniceseward.com/books/the-girl-who-lived-in-a-shoe-and-other-torn-up-tales/


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Calling all writers of picture books and chapter books. SCBWI has a new award out in memory of Kate Dopirak. What a wonderful way to remember such a special person!

Check it out. This year the focus and award is for writers of picture books. Go for it!

via Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award


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It’s that time of year, writers. If you are a SCBWI member, this is a great opportunity! The application window is March.

Let’s turn those ideas into the best stories possible!

Thanks to Kathy Temean over at Writing and Illustrating!

via BOOK WINNERS and SCBWI WORK IN PROGRESS AWARDS Opportunity