Wednesday, July 22, 2020

She Wears Many Hats...Interview with Alayne Kay Christian

By Janie Reinart

Alayne Kay Christian

It is my great pleasure to welcome Alayne to the Grog for an interview.This charming and creative lady sees a picture book in almost everything. Not only is Alayne Kay Christian an editor, but she is also an award-winning author, and creator and teacher of her own picture book writing course. Alayne is always generous with her time and a cheerleader for writers learning the craft. Let's dive into the questions.

1. How did you get the idea for your stories?

Both of my latest picture books are based on true stories. I got the idea for An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin in 2016 when a flood of videos and news articles arose about this very unusual love story between, can you guess? An old man and a penguin. Even though João first met Dindim in 2011, for some reason—at least to my knowledge—the story didn’t break until October of 2015 when the Wall Street Journal featured the odd pair. 

For The Weed that Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed, I first saw the story on the news. The story was such a testament to goodness, love, and the human spirit that I was compelled to share this lovely message with children. 

The beautiful true story is about a weed, a family that put the first Christmas decoration on the weed, and a city and nation who was reminded of the true Christmas spirit. I call it the “mostly true tale” because in the book, I tell the story from the weed’s perspective. 

2. What is your favorite part of the story?

Wow! That’s a tough question. I think for both stories, the endings are my favorite parts because they are so touching and leave a message of hope. Next to the ending, in The Weed That Woke Christmas my favorite part is the turning point. And with An Old Man and His Penguin, I just love the ups and downs throughout.

I must also share that I love the art in both books—thanks to Milanka Reardon (Old Man) and Polina Gortman (Christmas Weed).

3. How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?

I started writing An Old Man and His Penguin in 2016 and have done countless revisions over the years. I started writing The Weed That Woke Christmas in early 2019, so that one took a lot less time to get to publication.

Alayne's workspace

4.What is your writing routine?

Because I’m so busy now with Blue Whale Press, I feel like I can’t afford a routine. So, it’s a difficult balancing act to fit it “all” in. I write new stories when I’m moved to get them out in my first draft. Usually, once this happens, the story keeps calling me, so I do my best to dedicate some focus time. 

However, revisions on more established stories keep calling me too. So, decisions, decisions. I have a fabulous critique group and some fantastic critique buddies. 

When I get encouraging and inspiring critiques with suggestions that I have no doubt will help me take my story to the next level, I have to choose between working on a new story and revising the established story. Any story that has gained interest from an agent or editor always takes priority when revising.

5. What is your favorite writing craft book?

The first one I always recommend to emerging writers is Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books. I have so many craft books that I feel it would be impossible to choose just one. 

For novels, Janice Hardy has some excellent books and workbooks. And her Fiction University blog has non-stop tips on writing. I can’t let myself get started on all the craft books that I love and would recommend because this interview would never end ;-)

6. What inspires you to write?

My creative spirit won’t be still, so I have no choice but to respond. But I am most moved by true stories or ideas that touch my heart or funny bone. Motivation to write comes from being in critique groups and any sense of success—even if it’s a positive one-sentence manuscript rejection. 

Publication doesn’t help my addiction, with every one of my books that have been brought to life via amazing illustrations and brought into the world through publication, I have another story that I love that I must see come to life.

And then, there is my original and everlasting desire to touch the readers of my books through language and meaningful stories.

7. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a request for a rewrite and resubmit from an editor. All my fabulous critique partners have given me their thoughts, and I’m putting the puzzle pieces together for the rewrite. 

I’m also trying to find the funny and light-hearted side of my creative spirit. So, I’ve got already critiqued light-hearted stories awaiting revisions that are allowing me a chance to experiment with a different side of me as a children’s writer.

You can pre-order An Old Man and His Penguin here.

8. Words of advice for writers. 

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the importance of the training ground that peer manuscript critiques provide. I think it is important to experience critiques through this training ground and work to learn your craft via working with peers before spending money on professional critiques. 

Among other things, this training ground helps you learn how to deal with constructive criticism on an emotional level and on a decision-making level. It also opens your mind to trying different things, and helps you learn your craft. 

You can experience giving and receiving peer critiques by joining a critique group or taking advantage of manuscript swap groups, such as the ones KidLit411, SubItClub, and sometimes SCBWI offer. And if you are a 12 X 12 member, take advantage of their full manuscript critique benefit.

Along the lines of being in a critique group for a while before paying for a professional critique, and maybe even before submitting to agents and publishers, my next tip is to be patient. For most authors, publication does not happen overnight and for many it took years before their debut book.

Do everything in your power to learn. There is so much information available online, in writing groups and the online writing community, in craft books, in courses and webinars, and on and on. 

And as you learn, read as many books in your genre as possible. But don’t just read them. Analyze them. What do they have in common? What makes their beginnings grab you? What makes the beginnings special? What makes the middle keep you engaged and turning pages? 

If you are writing chapter books or novels, how does each chapter move the story forward? How does each chapter compel you to keep reading? What makes the ending of picture books or novels touch you and leave you feeling satisfied? And on and on I could go. Then, use what you have learned to create or analyze your own work.

I’d like to give a big thank you to you Janie and the GROG team for having me as a guest on your fabulous and informative blog.

Thank you, Alayne for joining us. May the success of your books go swimmingly. 

Alayne Kay Christian is the acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press and an award-winning children’s book author. She is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. Her published works include Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series and the picture book Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa. The second Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy book, Cowboy Trouble, will be released in the summer of 2020. The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Story of the Toledo Christmas Weed will be available late summer 2020. Her next picture book Faith Beneath the Bridge will come into the world in 2021. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. 

From the desk of Suzy aka Prairie Garden Girl

The winners from the July 15th giveaway are:

Annette Whipple 
Jarm Del Boccio

Please contact me at


  1. So great to see our friend Alayane here and to ponder her craft tips. Congrats on your 2 newest books and Blue Whale! Great interview Janie.

  2. Great interview, Janie! Great hat, Alayne! looking forward to reading these fun new books.

    1. Thank you, Sue. Ha! I just got the extra punch of the headline She Wears Many Hats. Good one Janie ;-) Thank you to you and the GROG team for the honor of being on your blog.

  3. Great interview! Love the stories. What fun sharings! Congrats!

  4. True, nonfiction stories always attract my attention and so do these books by Alayne.

    I’m creating two bookmarks for Annette and Jarm. Thank you, Janie, for announcing the winners.

  5. I've been seeing posts about THE OLD MAN AND HIS PENGUIN on social media. After this interview with Alayne I can't wait to read it!

    1. Michelle, the little video was so sweet. Then we will have the magic of Alayne's picture book to enjoy.

  6. Terrific interview Janie :) Thank you, Alayne, for emphasizing critique groups and patience! Congrats on your new books. I'm looking forward to reading them.

    1. I so appreciate your never-ending support, Charlotte!

  7. Thanks for stopping by Charlotte.❤️

  8. Great interview! Congratulations, Alayne, on these wonderful stories!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview. Alayne is amazing ❤️

    2. Thank you, my friend. And thank you for being an auntie to this baby by providing input in our crit group!

  9. Wonderful Interview!
    Thanks especially, Alayne, for your words of advice for writers. Congratulations and all the best on you amazing writing career.