Was writing a lifelong dream or something
you sort of fell upon?
I recall first being enamored when taking high school and college short story and playwriting classes. I also began composing essays. After I studied abroad in Paris and London, all I wanted to do was travel writing. In fact, I actually toured the country in one of my jobs giving educational seminars on travel to Russia, Eastern Europe, India and Europe. Writing speeches was such fun! When my husband, daughter and I moved to Frankfurt and then London, I took classes, joined critique groups and began writing short stories and entering contests. I also began writing an adult murder mystery. That all changed to writing for children after I had my own children and LA Parent magazine, where I worked when I moved back from living overseas, asked me to begin a blog and review children’s books.
Did school/education have a positive or negative impact on your writing?
I originally thought I wanted to major in art and become a set designer for theater, but once at university I changed my mind. My university had a strong English department and the classes I took prompted me to create an interdisciplinary major called Media Production and Writing. I thought I would write for television but never did. Fortunately, as a result of several creative jobs post college, (publicity in publishing, advertising and then travel) I’ve ultimately found my passion in writing for children. So in this roundabout answer, I’d say yes, my education had a positive impact since I’ve been in writing jobs ever since graduating.
Who is your favorite author?
To be honest, I can’t name just one favorite. Each time I read and love a book, that’s my current fave. There are many kidlit authors whose writing I admire including Sandra Boynton, Tammi Sauer, Marla Frazee, Jane Yolen, Kelly Starling Lyons, Ryan T. Higgins, Josh Funk, Jon Klassen, Andrea J. Loney, Carole B. Weatherford, Tara Lazar, Jerry Craft, Alexis O’Neill and tons more!!
Who or what is your biggest influence when it comes to the work you produce?
My own life experiences and those of my family constantly influence my writing. Whether I’m writing about special needs, bullying, fitting in, or Jewish culture, there is usually something I can tie to my childhood, my parenting experiences, travel and life overseas, as well as the ever-changing world around me.
What do you want to see change about the literary world?
I’d like to see more works from BIPOC authors and illustrators. It’s starting though. I see that as a reviewer which is terrific. That being said, I’d also like to see books by Jewish authors sharing non-stereo-typical experiences across the board and the same for disabled, LGBTQIA and neurodiverse authors and illustrators.
If your reader could know one fun fact about you or one of your character’s, what would you want to share?
I’m ambidextrous and I play a mean air guitar.
How have you witnessed your work change over the years as a writer?
My writing improves with every course I take and every book I read.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
I think I really don’t cope with it. I ignore it. That’s why deadlines are so good. When I don’t feel the creativity flowing, I often do non-writing things like arts and crafts (I love decoupage and papier mache), listen to my favorite radio podcasts or go for a walk.
Where is your favorite place to write?
One of my favorite places to write is the main branch of the Pasadena library. Being surrounded by warm wooden décor, studious people, and thousands of books is so calming and inspiring. I also like to write with a group of kidlit who used to meet at a café weekly prior to the pandemic. I cannot wait to return there.
Wrap up question that I like to ask all writers; what is the one piece of advice you want to offer to aspiring authors and writers?
I’m laughing because I still consider myself an aspiring author since I’m not published yet. My advice is to feed your creativity by feeding your soul. Do the things that spark joy and likely this will also spark stories. Maybe that’s a walk along the beach, walking the dog, or a walk through a museum. I never know when or where an idea will strike me, but if I’m relaxed and feeling good, chances are my brain is more open to new things.
The Twitter pitch event, #PBPitch, that I participated in this past February was maybe my fourth or fifth. But it was only the second time I pitched my Onion manuscript which you liked.
Is there any advice you would give to people participating in the future?
If people want to join a Twitter pitch event, my advice would be to visit the website of the person who hosts the event and read the instructions carefully. I see so many people who don’t follow the rules. Next I would type the Pitch Event hashtag into Twitter to get an idea of what a typical pitch is for picture books (in my case), middle grade and so on since not everyone deletes their pitch when the event ends. Look for ones with one or more hearts (likes) to see the qualities of a successful pitch. Lastly I recommend writing several different versions of the pitch and asking critique partners for feedback. It doesn’t hurt to also do a test run without really tweeting it to make sure you don’t have too many characters. Since 280 is the limit, be sure that includes space for required hashtags. Book titles are not required and neither are comps and could take up room.
By the way, there are probably more than a dozen different type of Twitter pitch events throughout the year whether that’s DVPit, faith pitch, dark pitch, Pitmad, and pitch events for scifi + fantasy, romance, lgbtqn and more!
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