Today, as part of the WIK (Writing and Illustrating for Kids) Conference, organized by the SCBWI Southern Breeze Chapter (Go, Breezers!), I have a special treat for you. An interview with picture book author, Nancy Raines day!
In case you’re wondering, Nancy looks something like THIS:
And her books look something like THIS:
Pretty nice, huh?
But enough of that. You’re here for the INTERVIEW, of course. So maybe we should begin at the beginning. Nancy, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
Growing up, I was lucky to have Mary Ann Hoberman (who recently was children’s poet laureate) as a neighbor. Watching her grow as a children’s author was inspirational, and I thought from a young age that would be very cool to do. At about age 10, my best friend and I “published” a newspaper. That was before copiers, so we wrote out ten copies (our total circulation of friends and family) by hand. In sixth grade, my teacher chose me to help her edit a collection of the school’s best student writings, and I was hooked. Senior year, I was Editor of my high school’s yearbook. I studied journalism in college and grad school. I only wrote nonfiction magazines, booklets and books for adults–until I was a mom. Then I switched to fiction for children, my lifelong passion.
You grew up in CT, and now live on St Simons, you lucky thing. Is place something that informs your work? Does the landscape affect your writing?
In between CT and St. Simons Island, I lived in San Francisco and Sonoma wine country for 26 years–nice places all! But none of my picture books is specifically set anywhere. except Flamingo’s First Christmas had to be in Miami (where I hadn’t even been until after I wrote the book). On a Windy Night was inspired by the sound of wind rustling corn, which my husband grew in our backyard in CA, but could have been anywhere.
Now, on St. Simons, I spend a lot of time on the beach, which has inspired some of my upcoming titles, “Way Down Below Deep” and “Sand and Sea.”
I feel like the rhythm of wallking and waves does find its way into my rhyming books.
Picture books can be tricky little beasties, and my own notebook is full of false starts. I’m wondering what percentage of the things you start out to write actually end up feeling finished? I think sometimes people assume that once you’re published and agented, you just have to spit out work. What’s the process like for you, in terms of deciding what to send out?
Part of my process is to get feedback from my Savannah writers’ group, as well as my awesome online group. Between my own radar and theirs, I usually have a good idea when it’s ready to go. And my longest-term editor let’s me know when she thinks a manuscript is close, but could be closer!
I have only recently signed on with Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, so I’m looking forward to some help deciding which projects are most ready for prime time. A few of my ideas have fallen by the wayside, whether I’ve lost interest in pursuing them or can’t quite put my finger on what they need to make it out there. Of those I start, I probably do get 75-85% of them finished, though. Some flow right out of me, and others may take a decade, but I am a very persistent person!
What are some of your all time favorite books by other people? What about them appeals to you?
A Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is my all-time favorite picture book. No matter how many thousands of times I read it, both as a child and as a parent, I never got tired of it. It makes me laugh–and think. Even today, surveying my less than tidy office, these words come to me: …this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!
Now THAT is writing!
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
If you feel you have to write, just keep doing it. Join a critique group, and learn all you can. Be patient, and don’t give up.
I’m curious about your involvement with SCBWI. Has it been a part of your path to publication? When did you get involved?
SCBWI has been key to my success since the beginning. I went to my first regional meeting in San Francisco, and was blown away by the talented and generous people I met. To get to my first national conference, my family camped in Malibu (I was hugely pregnant at the time) to save the hotel bill. My critique groups were great support during the ten years it took to get my first book published. Directly or indirectly, I’ve met all my editors through the SCBWI network. In my work critiquing manuscripts for others, I always tell writers that joining SCBWI will the smartest investment they ever made.
And what will you be talking about at wik13? I’d love a sneak preview of your session!
We’ll discuss the garden variety pitfalls in picture book manuscripts–trimming excess verbiage, letting adults take over, letting the truth stand in the way of a good story, and more–using real-life examples. Attendees should come away with the tools to prune their own picture book manuscripts closer to perfection.
I’ll also explain what a freelance editor/”manuscript doctor” can do and when using one might help.
That sounds great, Nancy! I’m sure our readers can’t wait for WIK! Thanks for joining us.
Thanks so much.
Nancy Raines Day is just one member of the impressive faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. This annual conference is hosted by the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net/
You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29 Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30 MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31 Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3 Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4 Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5 Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6 Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents