Wednesday, November 23, 2022

BRAVE LIKE MOM Written by Monica Acker

By Suzy Leopold

Welcome to the GROG Blog, Monica Acker! It’s always a pleasure to showcase the work of picture book authors and to learn more about the craft of writing for children. 

Let's meet debut author, Monica Acker and learn about her book:

Brave Like Mom

Written by Monica Acker

Illustrated by Paran Kim

Beaming Books, November 1st

Welcome, Monica. I'm so excited to chat with you.

Welcome, Monica to the GROG Blog.

Let’s begin . . . Please tell us about yourself and your writing journey.

Hi! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to chat with you!

I am a writer, educator, and mom of three who started writing for children with the goal of publication in 2018. I usually approach new experiences with a stick a toe in and test the water approach, but after attending a panel at my local indie titled, “So You Want to Write a Children’s Book?” I dove in. There was no temperature check and I did not pause to apply sunscreen, I just had to start swimming. I’ve been learning and growing as a writer ever since and when things get hard I remind myself to be like Dory and “just keep swimming.”

What inspires you to create picture books?

The beautiful interplay between words and pictures to create a story is magical to me. The picture books I read as a child, as a teacher, and as a mother inspired me to want to create picture books. I was a creative arts major in college with a dual focus in theater and visual arts and then I went on to receive a masters in childhood education. Writing picture books feels like the intersection of all of the things I am passionate about.

The inspiration for what to write about can come from anywhere, but especially from my three kiddos.

Your debut book, Brave Like Mom is a beautiful story filled with emotion. Writers are encouraged to write about one's lived experiences. Share the joys and challenges of writing this story along with the inspiration.

It felt like Brave Like Mom wrote itself when my sister-in-law was not well enough to go for a chemo treatment. I didn’t think or plan, I just wrote what I was feeling. The first line was exactly as it is today - “My mom is strong.” Then I tucked it away and didn’t think about it again. For over a year, the treatments seemed to be working, until they weren’t. At that time, I started tinkering with the story again and it became an outlet for me.

Eventually, my focus shifted from writing what I needed to write to writing something that perhaps others needed to read; that they are strong and brave and fierce. I tried to capture the strength and bravery I saw from my sister-in-law and nieces. I also pulled from my memories as a kid from a time my mom was sick enough to require overnight stays in the hospital. My brothers and I still joke about one of the “mysterious mushy meals” someone was kind enough to make for us. 


The hardest part of writing this story was the responsibility I felt to honor my sister-in-law’s spirit. It is a work of fiction and not a biography, but I hope it is something that she would have been proud of.


The greatest joy of Brave Like Mom being published are the notes I have received about what this book means to families that have read it. The idea that something I wrote can help or comfort or be the starting point of deep conversation - it’s hard to wrap my brain around sometimes, but it makes me smile nonetheless.

What inspires you to create picture books?


The beautiful interplay between words and pictures to create a story is magical to me. The picture books I read as a child, as a teacher, and as a mother inspired me to want to create picture books. I was a creative arts major in college with a dual focus in theater and visual arts and then I went on to receive a masters in childhood education. Writing picture books feels like the intersection of all of the things I am passionate about.


The inspiration for what to write about can come from anywhere, but especially from my three kiddos.


What is your favorite thing about being an author?


I love that I get to create. I can take a blank page and turn it into

a new world.


What do you find challenging working as an author?


The challenge is getting the ideas out of my head and onto the blank

page in a way that makes sense to not only me, but anyone who reads

the manuscript.


I certainly understand those thoughts. So often I have a vision for an idea. However, it is my thoughts I tend to struggle with to get it all down on paper.


What is something you wish someone had told you when you

first started writing?


I am lucky that I received a lot of great advice early on, but maybe

not early enough, because I queried the first story I ever wrote about

a month after I wrote it. DO NOT do this. One of the agents was

even closed to submissions, but this same agent wrote me the most

encouraging note to keep writing. And I did.


How wonderful for the literary agent to take the time to write a note of encouragement for you to continue your writing journey.


Share a piece of advice or craft of writing tip (ex. such as a pointer on the important step of revision).

My tip is to be genuine in your writing. It is important to know things like story structure and to learn from mentor texts. But, when you give a piece of yourself to your writing, I believe that is where the connections are made between writer and reader. 

I absolutely love your thoughts about making connections with the reader. You did this well in Brave Like Mom.

Are you prepared for some fun rapid-fire questions?


1. Describe yourself in five words.

 

Talkative, passionate, optimistic, goofy and cold (temperature wise, not emotionally)

2. What item displayed on your desk gives you inspiration?

No desk. I do love staring out windows when I’m stuck.

3. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Disney World. My older brother wore the Goofy hat with the floppy ears and I felt magic everywhere I turned.

4. Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset because I like to sleep in.

5. When are you most productive?

When nobody else is home.

6. What was your favorite childhood book or two?

Miss Nelson Is Missing and Chocolate Moose for Dinner

7. What surprises you?

Every time a balloon pops.

8. Favorite place to be.

Wherever my family is. (But also, Disney World)

The theme of Brave Like Mom is a sensitive topic to discuss

with children. Your well-crafted story and gorgeous illustrations

by Paran Kim depict the main character as courageous and

compassionate which makes difficult subjects easier to talk

about and understand. It’s important to listen to our children

and support their emotional well-being.


Did you refer to some mentor texts to assist you with writing

this story?


Two texts that had the biggest impact on me were not about this topic

at all, but I always knew that I wanted the reader to feel empowered at

the end. When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza

Wheeler, and I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani, gave me that feeling of empowerment. I also admired how Jessie Oliveros tackled a difficult health topic in The Remember Balloons, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte.


And the final question . . . Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

Do you have a favorite picture book title about Fall, Thanksgiving, or a theme of gratitude?


If You Find a Leaf by Aimée Sicuro is stunning. It is an invitation

to imagine the next time you come across a fall leaf and here in Massachusetts there are many.

Aw, yes. If You Find a Leaf written and illustrated by Aimée Sicuro is exquisite. I like the way she connects with the reader encouraging the reader to really look at Autumn leaves.


Thank you, Monica, for sharing your debut book with the followers of the GROG Blog.


Where can readers of the GROG Blog find out more about you?


Website www.monicaacker.com

Twitter @MonicaAcker1

Instagram @MonicaAcker1

Happy Thanksgiving, to you, Monica. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

May Thanksgiving remind us all to be grateful.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and things that inspire you. Your book is wonderful, and I feel blessed to have read and shared it. I'm also looking forward to checking out your recommendation of If You Find a Leaf. We still have lots of those on our trees here. Happy creating!

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    1. Shaunda!

      It was my pleasure to learn about Monica's writing journey and the inspiration for BRAVE LIKE MOM.

      You are sure to find IF YOU FIND A LEAF a delightful story that celebrates fall.

      Thank you for reading this interview. Your support is appreciated.
      Suzy

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    2. Thanks so much for reading Shaunda! IF YOU FIND A LEAF is so beautiful. I hope you enjoy it.

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  2. Such a great interview, Suzy, and thoughtful questions. This is a much-needed book and we all will have times in our lives where we need to be BRAVE LIKE MOM. Ty, Monica & Suzy.

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    1. Talking about an illness with kids is a tough topic. This beautiful book, BRAVE LIKE MOM, offers compassion and reassures children of hope.

      Thank you, Kathy, for your comment.

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    2. Thank you for reading and your kind words, Kathy!

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  3. Wonderful interview! Thank you both. And btw, that photo in front of the bookstore window is awesome. :-)

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    1. A community bookstore, Whitelam Books in Reading, Massachusetts created a wonderful celebration for the launch of Monica's debut book.

      Thank you, Dea, for your comment on the GROG Blog.
      Suzy

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    2. Thank you, Dea! I am lucky to have such a wonderful bookstore in town.

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  4. Great interview. Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes... and especially the mentor texts that helped inspire Monica as she worked on her book.

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    1. Your comment is appreciated, Sue. As you know reading currently published picture books as mentor texts is an excellent tool.

      Suzy

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  5. FYI: The Anonymous comments are from Monica Acker.

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