Carolyn's debut picture book was published this fall by Maine publisher Islandport. It's illustrated by Priscilla Alpaugh. The story follows an enthusiastic little girl and her father on a walk in the woods, where they find many fascinating objects to examine and hold onto.
The book has been well reviewed -- see the Kirkus review here. Carolyn has been busy promoting her book in and around her home town of Montpelier, Vermont, with story walks, and more. Don't know what a story walk is? Read on.
Q: Carolyn, what inspired you to write HOLD THIS?
CS: The book grew from the walks I took with my girls when they were little. Like my character, Mika, my girls were delighted with what they found. Bumpy twigs, smooth stones, crunchy leaves, all these items were scooped up and brought to me to hold.
|GROG mascot Cheddar enjoys HOLD THIS!|
CS: It took quite a while for HOLD THIS! to become a book, more than five years from start to finish. I think that this is partly because it takes a long time to sell a picture book, and partly because the book itself needed to evolve. It started out as a longish, funny book about a mother and seven children taking a walk to the seashore. It got some very nice rejections, but never seemed to be quite what editors were looking for. I put it aside for a while, but the heart of the book, a child’s irrepressible enthusiasm for nature’s treasures, kept popping up in my mind. Eventually, I realized I needed to pare away all the clever words and get back to the simple story – of a child’s delight in nature and a parent’s quiet encouragement.
|courtesy of P. Alpaugh|
Q: How did you pick Islandport as your publisher, and how did you like working with the folks there?
CS: I had heard Melissa Kim (who ended up being my editor) speak at a New England SCBWI conference. I was impressed with her commitment to finding stories that captured the unique flavor of New England while being universally accessible. In researching the publisher, I noticed that they seemed to be drawn to stories about nature, so it felt like HOLD THIS! might be a good fit.
|courtesy of P. Alpaugh|
I feel very lucky to have landed at Islandport. The illustrator, Priscilla Alpaugh, was a perfect fit for the manuscript. And Islandport's support for me as a writer has been excellent.
Q: We know that the writer does only half the work of a picture book, while the illustrator does the other half. What was it like for you to see your story come to life with illustrations? Do the characters look the way you imagined? In particular, were those little critters in the book (mice, squirrels and chipmunks) your idea or Priscilla's?
|Scoppettone/Alpaugh book signing|
Q: HOLD THIS has some fun design aspects, such as large print of the words "swisshhhing leaves." Were those your idea?
CS: I certainly had images in mind for those evocative words like “swishhhh” and “splash gurgling,” but the book design was a collaborative effort between Melissa and Priscilla.
Q: Have you met Priscilla, your illustrator?
CS: A month or so after the book was purchased, Melissa told me they’d chosen an illustrator, and that all three of us were going to be attending the upcoming NESBWI conference. She set up a meeting in the hotel café. Priscilla, Melissa, and I liked each other right away, so that early meeting paved the way for easy communication all along the way.
|Sharing HOLD THIS with young fans|
Q: Wow! Lucky you! Tell us about your book promotion.
CS: We launched HOLD THIS! with a story time at the Montpelier public library, followed by a story walk in the local park.
I have a book signing scheduled at indie bookstore Bear Pond Books in Montpelier this month. The folks at Islandport have been a big help with promotion. Priscilla and I recently did a story time and book signing event together at Boston area bookstore “An Unlikely Story.” That was a lot of fun.
Q: And a story walk is . . .?
CS: A story walk is a great way to combine reading with exploration of nature. In our local woodland park, I posted all the pages of the book in order, encouraging people (especially kids) to walk the path while reading the story. Islandport created large laminated panels for me to put up on posts. I actually created a second story walk on the lawn of the Vermont statehouse, a few days after the park walk.
|HOLD THIS story walk on the lawn of the Vermont Statehouse|
CS: I’m working on a new middle grade novel in the genre of magical realism and with a boy protagonist. I’m also polishing several picture books.
|courtesy of P. Alpaugh|
CS: Before I started writing for children, I was a newspaper reporter and an advertising writer. So, I guess, I have been writing as a job for my whole adult life. I started writing picture books when my kids were very young, but only really got serious about it later on, when I had more time.
Q: Any final thoughts for GROG readers?
CS: If you love to write, keep writing and keep sending out your work. HOLD THIS! got many rejections before it found a home.
|Cheddar recommends it!|
If you'd like to enter our drawing to win a copy of HOLD THIS!, leave a comment on this post. My trusty assistant Cheddar and I will draw the name of the lucky winner on Friday, November 20. Good luck to all!
Christy and Cheddar