I have interviewed many authors and illustrators over the past eight years for my Interview Alert feature here on Frog on a Blog. Most recently, I posed questions to author and artist Abraham Schroeder, who didn’t disappoint with his candid and detailed responses.
Today, Abraham has turned the tables on me, becoming the interviewer, and I, the interviewee. But instead of appearing on his site, the interview is right here. I have to admit, I’m a bit more comfortable asking the questions than answering them, but I had fun. Have a look! Perhaps you’ll learn a little something new about me. Take it away, Abraham!
AS) You have interviewed almost 30 authors and illustrators for your blog over the years, and it is inspiring to read so much about their different backgrounds and journeys. You also recently interviewed me, thank you, and I thought it would be fun if you were interviewed for your blog too. Then I realized this is my first time interviewing anyone, so for ideas I did some careful combing through your interviews, ones you conducted, and other people interviewing you.
AS) What have you learned from interviewing so many people? Have you been surprised by anything in particular?
LF) I’ve learned that children’s book authors and illustrators, besides being incredibly talented, are also some of the nicest people you could meet, so generous with their time and always willing to share their knowledge with those aspiring to be where they are, that is, published. I’ve also learned that those who write or illustrate for children are, each one of us, on our own path. So we should do ourselves a favor and not compare our journeys to other’s.
AS) You have talked about how, as a librarian, you see a lot of new books. Do you have input on what kinds of books are acquired by your library?
LF) I should clarify that I am not a librarian, rather a library assistant. More specifically, I’m a processing assistant, which means I catalog all of the new materials my library acquires. So just about every new book, DVD, music CD, and etc. that the library receives, goes past me before going out to the public. The best part of my job is being one of the first people to read the brand-new picture books. I don’t have a lot of input on what books the library acquires, but I do make occasional requests. (The images below show part of my cataloging process at the library, including a cart of new books waiting to be cataloged, my computer screen, and my own book’s back cover and spine when I cataloged it in 2015.)
AS) Going to the library with small kids in tow, I often find myself with limited time to flip through the stacks, and sometimes I’m literally grabbing randomly. “Here’s a handful, let’s go!” Sometimes we find amazing books that way, some of our favorites, and sometimes we get a bag full of duds. How do you help people who visit the library find great books?
LF) I’m happy to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed, but usually I refer patrons to the children’s librarian. Librarians really know their stuff and are more than willing to help.
AS) Do you see any trends in what kinds of books are popular these days? What are your thoughts about what you see being published, or at least what crosses your desk?
LF) In picture books, though I wouldn’t call it a trend exactly, based on my observations, the most popular amongst my library’s young patrons are the superhero, Star Wars, television series, and Disney tie-ins. It’s the sad truth, but at least they’re reading!
As far as trends in what’s being published, I’m pleased to report that picture books are all over the place in terms of word count, illustration style, and type of story (humorous, lyrical, thought-provoking, whimsical, concept, rhyme, prose, interactive, nonfiction, etc.). Any writers out there reading this, don’t write to perceived trends. Just write your best stories.
AS) Why do you think picture books are important? Why do you spend so much time working with, reading, writing, and sharing them?
LF) I love that picture books are both mirrors, for kids to see themselves in, and windows, for kids to learn about the world and to develop empathy for others. But even before I gave much thought to that spot-on analogy, I was a fan. Where else can you find a story and page after page of incredible art packaged up so perfectly and ready to transport readers or listeners of all ages to amazing places?
I also believe that literacy is an important milestone to success in life. If children are introduced to books and reading early on and throughout their growing-up years, they will become strong readers. The best way to start is by reading picture books. I encourage all of you to read picture books with the kids in your lives often.
AS) You’ve said in other interviews that you have dozens of stories written and many more ideas. What is your process for turning those ideas into finished stories?
LF) I wish I could say I had a process. Usually, my ideas sit for weeks before my mind generates enough substance to start formulating an actual story. The ideas that “speak” the loudest are the ones most likely to become finished stories. I have tons of ideas; many will never be stories because after that first spark, they never speak again. On the flipside, I sometimes get ideas that come to me as fully formed stories, ready to be written down. Sadly, that doesn’t happen too often.
AS) Do you work on one story at a time or several at once?
LF) I definitely work on several at once. If I’m stuck on one, I work on another. I have many in various stages of development.
AS) Do you think about vocabulary and age range when you write?
LF) I’ve read so many picture books that I think those things are ingrained in me at this point. I just concentrate on writing the best story I can.
AS) In one interview, kids asked if you were rich and famous now that you have a book out. I’m sure many adults also assume you’ve hit the big time now. When you’re not too busy counting your money and going on shopping sprees, how do you spread the word about your books? What sort of personal outreach and publicity do you do?
LF) I can’t answer this question right now because I’m off to do some shopping in Paris. Okay, I’m back. Seriously though, I don’t talk about this much, but I’m struggling with a chronic illness that makes it difficult for me to do as much promotion as I would like, outside of social media and local book signings. I experience severe fatigue on a daily basis and have trouble with walking and balance. With some possible new treatments coming up, I hope to feel better in the near future.
Some ways that I have promoted my book include, sending copies to reviewers, interviews, local book signings, donating copies to literacy organizations, features in local newspapers, blogging, tweeting, etc.
AS) When you’re not living, breathing, and thinking picture books, what do you like to do?
LF) Spending time with my dog is at the top of the list. I like teaching him new tricks. Also, my husband and I watch a lot of movies together, all kinds. I enjoy Japanese anime too.
AS) Is there anything else you’d like to share?
LF) I just want to say thank you to fans of my picture book The Peddler’s Bed, followers of Frog on a Blog, and all of my supportive family and friends. I appreciate you all!
And thank you, Abraham, for the interview! You’re a pro at this now! (Those were some tough questions.) 😊