1. Tell us how you got started writing for children.
I have always loved reading and writing. One day while my own children were small, a title popped into my head and I said to myself “I am going to make that a book someday.” About 10 years later, in 2013, my first self-published book called Dachshunds in Moccasins came out. I am a dachshund lover and have two of my own. Since Dachshunds in Moccasins, I have written two other dachshund books and I now have my first two traditionally published picture books coming out this fall. I just decided that it was time to pay attention to this quiet passion I had that was sort of sleeping. While my children were small, I really couldn’t devote the time to writing. But as soon as it felt like the right time, the passion reignited.
2. How did you connect with Blue Whale Press?
I had seen their call for submissions. I had queried several agents at the time and was waiting on replies from a few of them. When I saw Blue Whale’s opportunity I decided to query a publisher directly. I took my chance because I saw Blue Whale was a very young press and was looking to grow their list.
3. I see you have two books with Blue Whale Press coming out. Can you tell us a blurb about each one?
Yes, I would love to! RANDALL AND RANDALL is about Randall, the pistol shrimp, who is a master at excavation. Randall, the goby fish, is his skittish, yet happy-go-lucky watchman. The problem is that both have quirks that drive each other bananas until one day their relationship is driven to the breaking point. This very funny informational-fiction story about one of the sea’s naturally-existent odd couples illustrates how certain species depend upon their symbiotic relationship for survival. It also shows children how two very different beings can embrace each other’s peculiarities and become best of friends.
PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET is about a young but clever Porcupette who loves to spend days alone in the quiet forest reading. But when Moppet, a bumbling predator, comes along with his silly antics and non-stop rambling, Porcupette’s sanctuary is turned topsy-turvy. When Moppet finally makes his move, they both get a big surprise that suggests Moppet should read more, and Porcupette should listen more carefully.
4. And wow, your first two books with BWP are publishing just a month from each other. How did that happen?
Not really sure LOL!!! They are releasing just one month apart and it is making my head spin. Sometimes I forget which book I am talking about and I send the wrong book information to the wrong person. The publishing dates have to do with many factors that just lined up this way. You want book reviews from reputable sources so that takes time. You want to time the releases with when the reviews are slated to come out. Blue Whale has been great at that timing factor.
5. Where did you get your story ideas for Randall & Randall and Porcupette and Moppet?
I knew that I wanted to write stories featuring animals that were not well-known. I am not sure why exactly, but when I began to write more seriously, my research kept taking me towards these types of animals. I wasn’t confident in myself that I could pull off writing a story about a rabbit or a bear or a dog. Those characters are plentiful in children’s books and so many are done so well. I felt at the time I couldn’t be original enough if I chose these more common animals. The goby fish and pistol shrimp in RANDALL AND RANDALL were two species that I knew nothing about and I just sort of stumbled upon them one day during some research. I instantly felt this connection that their natural relationship was interesting enough for a story.
PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET actually came to me first, almost a year and a half earlier than R&R. I learned only as an adult that a baby porcupine was called a porcupette. Can you get any cuter than that name? So again, I felt there was a story inside me about a young porcupine. And I wanted the story to be somewhat factual without being true nonfiction so upon further research about porcupines, I learned that the fisher is one of the only known predators of the porcupine. DING! I have read many, many picture books in my career in education and I cannot ever recall a fisher being in any of them. I now had the beginning of a story.
6. What kinds of marketing strategies are you doing/going to do?
Oh, yes. The marketing! This is probably the most exhausting and time consuming part of it all. Before sitting down to answer these interview questions, I had composed and answered emails to and from zoos, aquariums, local book stores, state parks, and libraries. RANDALL AND RANDALL features two ocean animals so I am in contact with The Baltimore Aquarium in Maryland and the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Hopefully a book reading and signing event can be arranged in both of these places. I have plans to do a book event for PORCUPETTE AND MOPPET at two local libraries in conjunction with Nolde Forest, a local state park, who will have staff on hand that will bring along a fisher pelt and porcupine quills and provide more information to the children and families. I am hoping to arrange an event with the Cape May Zoo as well.
Blue Whale Press has sent me an extensive list of bloggers and other outlets to contact for interviews BWP promotes their authors on social media and sends the books out for reviews. They will also contact literature festivals on the authors’ behalf.
7. How has being a librarian helped your writing?
Being a children’s librarian has been the most amazing and inspirational part of my whole journey in becoming an author. I know what is current in children’s literature at all times. I know what publishers are publishing. But most importantly, I know what children want to read. One of the reasons I wrote my two latest books is because I see that my students are drawn to factual information when it is done in a creative nonfiction sort of way. For example, when I read Bethany Barton’s I AM TRYING TO LOVE SPIDERS, my students were so engaged. They were getting spider information delivered to them with humor, and illustrations that allowed them to linger on the page. I loved how they interacted with me, their peers, and the text when I read that book and others like it. I want my books to get that type of reaction from readers. But I can’t do it with just my words alone. Illustrators Polina Gortman for R&R and Alicia Young for P&M have given the books that extra layer the readers need. They have made my factual information come alive. These ladies are so incredibly talented.
8. Do you have an agent?
Not at this time, but I am actively seeking one.
9. What writing advice would you give to our Grog Blog audience?
I am going to pass along advice that was given to me from author David Elliot who I was fortunate enough to have as my mentor for an entire weekend at Andrea Brown’s Big Sur retreat in Cape Cod. I have a post-it note in my writing space with his words on it…”Keep it organic”. He critiqued two other manuscripts that I am working on when he said this to me. Upon talking with him more I finally figured out what he was truly saying. Write from your heart. Don’t force something onto a page because you want it to fit or to work. He picked up on a few things in these pieces of mine that I didn’t realize I was forcing upon the story. When I recognized it, I felt this sort of freeing sensation. But I didn’t realize it fully until days later when I was alone at home looking at these stories. Yeah! Wow! So, write with wholesomeness, be organic.
Nadine Poper is an elementary librarian for an urban Pennsylvania school district who loves how fortunate she is to be surrounded all day by books and children to share them with. She is a mom to three handsome young men and two dachshunds. Nadine is a huge wiener dog fan and self-published three children’s books about dachshunds. She is also a foster home for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue and donates portions of her book sales to the rescue. She is a committee member for the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award through the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
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