Welcome to our next member interview! Today, we’re delighted to feature Cathy Ballou Mealey whose debut book, WHEN A TREE GROWS, will be released on April 2nd from Sterling Publishing. Cathy is not only a brilliant person but she also has a super fun side. . .read on!
Notable19: So, Cathy, did you have a pet growing up and has it made its way into any of your stories?
Cathy: My family had plenty of dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils and even a turtle. The first pet that was mine – all mine – was Brownie, a handsome smooth-coated guinea pig. I’ve worked a veritable menagerie of real and imaginary creatures into my stories, most well-anthropomorphized. I’m sure Brownie would get along well with Squirrel, the rodent protagonist in WHEN A TREE GROWS.
Notable19: Sounds like you have an affinity for the order rodentia. :D He’s a cutie, as were you! When not observing Brownie, you must have watched some television. What was your favorite TV show as a kid?
Cathy: Tuesday nights at 7:30 you could always find me watching Jim Henson’s THE MUPPET SHOW. I was hooked on Sesame Street as a kid, and idolized the Muppets with their distinctive personalities and sly humor. When Frank Oz gave a lecture at my graduate school and brought Grover along, I was so spellbound that I just about forgot to breathe!
Notable19: You got to see Frank Oz?! We are very jealous! There should be a National Frank Oz Day, in our opinion. If you could invent a holiday, what would it be?
Cathy: Is there a holiday that hasn’t been invented yet? I am especially looking forward to celebrating the holidays that can help promote WHEN A TREE GROWS such as:
January 15 – National Moose Day
January 21 – Squirrel Appreciation Day
April 26 – Arbor Day
October 22 – National Nut Day
December 7 – National Letter Writing Day
I hope you have marked these important dates on your calendars. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
Notable19: We are definitely marking down those special days! Arbor Day and National Letter Writing Day can really touch people’s lives, too. Speaking of touching, what is the first book that made you cry?
Cathy: Probably Charlotte’s Web. I also remember weeping through James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small and its sequels, tales of his careful, compassionate veterinary work in the Yorkshire Dales. What an amazing storyteller he was!
More recently, I wept while reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo to my children. I think you can still see the tear stains on the pages.
Notable19: A good cry that well-written books elicit can be very therapeutic. But to end on a happier note, do you have a playful way to get past the blank page, such as writing exercises or prompts?
Cathy: As a writing warm-up, I like to scroll through Instagram for an image that inspires me to jot down a setting, a character description, or a simple “what next?” plot outline. These quick scribbles help me to jump back into a WIP with fresh, surprising ideas. I also post some of my favorite picture book images on Instagram – check it out @catballoumealey!
Notable19: That does sound like a great way to get inspired! Some people do something similar on Pinterest, too. Thanks so much for letting us take a peek into your childhood, Cathy!
Follow Cathy on Twitter and Instagram to catch news about her book and to see cute animal links!
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!
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!