The second Notable19 member to be showcased in our interview series is a talent author-illustrator with a unique sense of humor. Here he is in his own words:
Hello, My name is James Serafino and my debut picture book, THIS LITTLE PIGGY, is out now with Philomel and is available everywhere. I have had the time of my life making this book and it is a literal dream come true, I hope you enjoy it.
If you’d like to know more about me and how this book was made, here is a small window into my silly colorful world.
Notable19: Are you a first born/middle/family baby/only child? Do you think that has affected your creative life at all?
James: I am the middle child with two very loud and highly opinionated brothers and this has most definitely affected my creativity. With that much chaos going on around me there was little use getting involved and I generally just played and watched and did whatever they decided, until I got to my sketch book. There, on blank pages I could do whatever I chose and go wherever I wanted. I taught myself to draw copying comic strips and comic books and it wasn’t long before I started writing my own and fell in love with creating and controlling my very own worlds.
Notable19: Hmm, sounds you have your brothers to thank for your talents and vocation. LOL! What do you think about when you have trouble falling asleep?
James: Infinite universes. There are a million little parts, all working together, that make up every story and if one thing changes the rest follow suite. I can’t help but wonder if this is true for my story too. Maybe there are a million other mes out there all just a little bit different but mostly the same.
Notable19: The multiverse theory is certainly a fascinating one that can keep one up at night! Where is your favorite place to write?
James: In my studio I have a big desk where I can lay out all the different ideas I have for a story and see them all together. All of my pens and pencils and paints and papers are in reach. I hate writing there. It is far too serious. I will spend the first several hours of the day banging my head on that table, overwhelmed by possibilities and lack of progress. Eventually I will escape, whether it’s a park, a bar or a crowded café doesn’t really matter. Just somewhere where life is happening. Then I can clear my head and write with out getting distracted and return to my desk prepared to do battle.
Notable19: Creating is such a solitary task most of the time, it's nice that you can get out and still get work done. What is your favorite rainy day activity?
James: Rainy days are the best days. Rainy days are my favorite days. Hot chocolate is sweeter, blankets are cozier and books are better. Everything is calm and quiet and slow. They smell better and sound better and the new ideas are better.
Notable19: The Pacific Northwest might be your dream living location then! If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
James: I’d like to go to the British Isles, Wales and Ireland particularly. They sound wonderfully magical and fun in that fairytale kind of way, which is my favorite kind of way. I dream of going there and getting lost in another universe where I can do magic. Also, see above regarding my love of rainy days.
Notable19: Well, it definitely is rainy over in that part of the world. Finally, what is a food you couldn’t live without?
James: Cheeseburgers. Wonderful, magical cheeseburgers. I definitely couldn’t live without them, in fact I think its time for one right now…
Notable19: We'll let you go to satisfy your cheeseburger cravings, James. :) Thanks so much for sharing tidbits about yourself with our readers!
Don't forget to follow James at Instagram, his favorite social media hangout, and go to our Books page to see where you can order THIS LITTLE PIGGY!
When I sat down to begin this post, I had every intention of writing about making book dummies. (Spoiler, I’m not going to write about dummy making.) However, as I began looking back through old dummies and the material that led to my debut author/illustrated picture book (The Little Green Girl, Dial 2019), I couldn’t help marveling at the dates on my early drafts. I ended up on a wild hunt through boxes of dummies and sketchbooks, an ancient laptop, and finally our current computer.
I found the first drawing of my main character in a sketchbook from 2014. At the time, I knew right away that this little character had a story to tell, and I remember quickly filling the page around her with additional character sketches as well as scratchy story notes, and a tiny drawing of a garden gnome. (Poor gnome didn’t make it into even the first dummy.)
The gnome isn’t the only thing that I cut from those early drafts. Very little remains from the first draft of the story other than the Little Green Girl and her gardener, Mr. Aster. The plot, the emotional narrative of both characters, the resolution—all of it is different in the book that will be published next year.
This book is not a story that wrote itself. I found five InDesign drafts on my old laptop and eight additional drafts on the new computer. The Little Green Girl took three years and thirteen drafts to sell, and it’ll be almost exactly five years from that very first sketch to the book’s publishing date. I’m telling you all of this not to discourage anyone, but rather to say that if you’ve ever had an idea for a character or a story, stick with it. You never know; it just may end up on a bookshelf one day.
And to be practical, here are a few pointers on revisions from someone who is terrible at killing her darlings:
We are super excited to kick off the first of our Notable19 interview series with Shauna LaVoy Reynolds whose debut book, POETREE, will be out with Dial/Penguin in Spring 2019! You can find out more about Shauna at her website, but for our interview series, we asked fun and unusual questions that you probably won't see elsewhere so you really get to know our creators.
Notable19: What do you think about when you have trouble falling asleep?
Shauna: Ugggh, that’s the worst! Thankfully, I’m quite skilled at getting to sleep. But when I’m struggling, or even sometimes when I’m feeling anxious and need to distract myself, I think about my Granny’s house. I’ll pick a room or two and try to remember what it was like. Every last detail. Maybe it’s the kitchen, with the world’s sweetest tea in the avocado green refrigerator. Or the back bedroom, with the shelf of Reader’s Digest condensed books and the drop side crib full of my mom’s old dolls. Sometimes it’s the laundry detergent scent and faux bois carpet in the garage. (Yes, faux bois carpet. Yes, in the garage. I would never judge your Granny’s decor choices!) Anyway, it’s kind of like going to a different homey and cozy time and place without leaving my bed. It works every time.
N19: What a wonderful memory of your Granny's house! And if it helps you fall asleep, than all the more sweet (like the tea in her fab green fridge). Speaking of green, if you were a new color in the crayon box, what color would you be?
Shauna: I used to always say my favorite color was Post-It Note yellow, but I’m sure that’s heavily trademarked. The Post-It lawyers are probably drafting a cease and desist right now. I’ll brighten it up a bit and call it Front Door Yellow, because there’s nothing more welcoming than a cheery yellow front door. You could also use it to color a forsythia bush, or a goldfinch, or a rubber ducky, or a smiley face. Sunny and versatile.
N19: Smart to not piss off the 3M company people. LOL! Yellow is a great color! What is the most well-known book you’ve never read?
Shauna: I’ve never finished a Jane Austen book. Just not my thing! Sorry! I don’t feel too bad, because she probably wouldn’t like my books either.
N19: Not everyone has to like everyone else's books, that's for sure. If you could invent a holiday, what would it be?
Shauna: In all seriousness, I think Election Day should be a national holiday. And for a fun one, how about Pajama Day? We could even combine them and vote in our jammies. Kids would get so excited about being future voters! Let’s do this.
N19: That is a brilliant idea! Let's start a petition to get that going. :) What is hardest for you about writing? Easiest?
Shauna: The hardest part of writing picture books is brevity. I like to use my words. I like to describe the heck out of things. I’m tempted to make this answer a thousand words long, but I won’t. The easiest is coming up with ideas. I have thousands of ideas, hundreds of good ideas, and maybe even dozens of viable ideas. They’re literally everywhere! Spinning them into stories — that’s a bit trickier. It’s a joy, but it sure isn’t easy.
N19: We hear you on that! How is the main character in POETREE like you?
Shauna: I didn’t realize how much Sylvia and I are alike until I was finished working on this story. Like me, Sylvia is a shy daydreamer with a lot to say and her own way of saying it. And like me, she writes to make better sense of the world around her and the feelings inside her.
N19: Sylvia sounds like a character a lot of us bookish types can relate to. We can't wait to get acquainted with her when your book comes out! Thanks for sharing these super fun facts about yourself, Shauna!
Be sure to follow us and Shauna on Twitter so you can see her news and updates as she eagerly awaits her book birthday. You can pre-order POETREE at Parnassus Bookstore's website. Thank you for coming by!
Besides being thankful that we will have picture books published next year, these are other surprising and interesting things some of our authors are grateful for...
Laura Renauld: I am thankful for snowball snow, crocus blossoms, garden-ripe tomatoes, and fall feasts with family and friends.
Stephanie Lucianovic: I am thankful for California firefighters, The Good Place on NBC, midterm elections, and rainy days.
Cassandra Federman: I’m thankful for uncontrollable gigglefests and for the kindness of strangers.
Teresa Robeson: I am thankful for 1) the evolution of angiosperms so I can have my favorite, and some not-so-favorite, fruits, 2) the existence of the Higgs Boson without which we would not be here talking about what we are thankful for, and 3) hairspray.
Hannah Stark: I am thankful for the big things like libraries and love, the small things like teeth and toilet paper, and all of the moments I take like this to realize the list is long.
We hope this gets you thinking about the wonderful little things that you are grateful to have in your life. Be sure to come back on December 5th when we will have our first #Notable19s member interview.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
If you're like us, you're probably well aware that the holidays are upon us (even before Halloween candy went on sale...LOL!). This year, Notable19 members are excitedly looking forward to the new year when our debut books will be birthed.
Some of us already have our books available for pre-order! You can see these fabulous covers, along with preordering links, on the BOOKS page. Others, you will have to wait until for a while longer for the reveal. Believe us, we are as impatient about it as you are!
We will be starting our Get To Know the Author/Illustrator posts very soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out all of our authors' social media links and websites to see what they are up to on a daily basis. Cassandra, James, and Lisa, for example, post their wonderful illustrations on their Instagram pages, while Richard and Teresa tend to share science tweets on Twitter. Make sure you follow them all!
As you may have already seen at our Twitter account (@Notable19s), we are a group of debut picture book authors whose first book--either as writers or illustrators or writer-illustrators, or first time with a larger press--is coming out in 2019. The books cover a wide range of subjects, from humorous to socially-conscious to nonfiction.
We are delighted to have you join us on our debut journey! Please look around and subscribe so you don't miss our cover reveals, interviews, and other exciting news.
We are a group of writers and illustrators who have debut books (actual debuts , debuts as author-illustrators, or debuts with medium/large publishers) forthcoming in 2019. Thank you for joining us on our exciting journey!