Interview Alert: Me

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.

Java and MeAS) 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.) 😊

Interview Alert: Abraham Schroeder

It is my extreme pleasure to share an interview with author, artist, father, and all-around super guy, Abraham Schroeder. Abraham is the author of Ripple Grove Press’s first book, The Gentleman Bat, which was published in 2014. I had the honor of being one of the first reviewers of the book right here on Frog on a Blog. (Take a moment to read the review HERE.) Abraham is also a talented artist with an eclectic style and a unique body of work.

I have no idea why it took me so long to ask Abraham for an interview, but you’ll discover by reading his very thoughtful and detailed responses, that it was well worth the wait. Enjoy!

You are the author of Ripple Grove Press’s first book ever, The Gentleman Bat. How did that come about?

Around 2003 I wrote my first picture book and made rough sketches. The pieces all clicked together for me, and it was the first time as an adult that I saw how the picture book format would be a perfect, fun package to share some art and ideas, so I kept writing little stories. Around 2005 or 2006 I started The Gentleman Bat, working on it over months and years with the vague notion to someday find a publisher or self publish. By 2011 I had accumulated a small pile of stories, manuscripts, rough drafts, and sketches, which was starting to feel less like a side hobby and more like something I wanted to see to fruition. I’d tentatively shared drafts with friends and a few publishers, encouraged by positive murmurs, but had no solid leads.

Over the next couple of years I worked toward the goal of either finding a publisher or really learning how to make great books myself. I did more writing, more research about publishing, and spent a few months working at a small publishing company where I updated my skills in editing and layout. I gained some insight into the process of getting books from idea, to print, and to market, including a few big things to avoid. 

When I heard that a friend/former colleague was starting a publishing company and was looking for submissions, I was ready. Within a few days I sent a packet of manuscripts. The advantage of being early in that first wave of submissions was that I was guaranteed fresh, undistracted consideration, eyes on the page, but they got a lot of early submissions, so if my stories didn’t resonate with their vision for the company and the catalog, the books would not have been picked. I was thrilled some months later when they wanted to move forward with two books. I was also surprised by which books they declined, including one of my favorites, that first one I wrote (which, by the way, if any publishers or agents are reading this, is still super awesome, wholesome, inspiring, and just a great read overall). Even now, having two books with them, they don’t play favorites or give me any free passes if they don’t see a fit.

(Elmira (on the left) and friend posing with The Gentleman Bat Photos 2017, Lubee Bat Conservancy, Gainesville, FL | Note: These photos are not upside down, the bats are.

The Gentleman Bat is a rhyming picture book and is very poetic. Do you consider yourself a poet?

I don’t consider myself a poet, and I have mixed feelings about poetry in general, but as long as I can remember I’ve always loved rhythm and rhymes and music and word play. I often get little rhymes and phrases stuck in my head, and sometimes they grow. That’s what happened with The Gentleman Bat. The first few couplets were rattling around for weeks or months before I wrote them down. Once I had a basic premise and structure I tried to maintain a regular meter while keeping natural speaking language, and of course telling a story. The rules I put in place for myself were a little arbitrary, but with massive effort I stuck pretty well to them, and I hope the process made it easier to read and follow. I have several more rhyming stories in the works, a few songs I’ve been tinkering with too, and I do my best to not get lazy and try to sneak something sloppy in for lack of better solution. When I have the head space for it (rarely), I read up on poetic systems, but it’s mostly about sound and feel, counting out the syllables on my fingers, trying every possible arrangement of words I can think of. It’s often brutally slow, tedious work to make something feel effortless.

Having two young kids, I read a TON of books out loud, over and over and over and over, so when there’s a bad rhyme, an uncomfortable pattern of stresses, or something that just doesn’t fit with the rest, it only gets worse with repetition and can sour the whole book. In contrast, the good rhyming stories, even ones that have really weird structure or breaks, when they work, they really work. I hope mine don’t fall into the painful side for anyone, though I put in some tricky tongue twisters that make you slow down. No complaints so far, knock on wood.


What was the inspiration behind Too Many Tables, Ripple Grove Press’s second book?

It started as an idea that I nearly dismissed as too silly to write down, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I wrote the first draft maybe just a few weeks before I submitted it, and was thrown for a loop when Ripple Grove Press liked it more than stories I’d labored over for years. Something I was not conscious of – Micah, the illustrator, pointed it out way later in the process as one reason he signed on to the project – was that the story has an underlying sentiment of unquestioning generosity and the spirit of working together as a community to help build wonderful things. My subconscious writing mind set that up nicely, even if I was the last person on the team to notice.

Seeing the books that Ripple Grove Press has published since then helps put their choice in context. Your book, The Peddler’s Bed, for instance, has more of that unquestioning generosity and kindness in a story that is silly and sweet (Squeak, squeak, squeak!). Mae and the Moon, Salad Pie also, the unselfconscious play … hmmm, maybe all of them now that I look at the catalog … As they add new titles you start to get a sense of the vision for the world that Ripple Grove Press is trying to build and share. Mr. Tanner and Graduation Day add a certain beautiful sadness and hope to the mix. 

Did you collaborate with the illustrators on either of the books?

Piotr Parda and I were in art school together, and I’ve always admired his skill and diligence in drawing, painting, and sculpture. We’ve worked on lots of little projects together over the years, and I knew he’d have good ideas for The Gentleman Bat. I showed him the early drafts and he came back with amazing sketches right away. His enthusiasm helped me keep writing, and his patience through draft after draft helped us build the book up to what we have today. He was part of the package when I pitched it, and it would not have happened without our partnership throughout. Photoshop, email, and Skype allowed us to communicate visual ideas quickly from opposite sides of the country over the final year of production.

Micah Monkey is an accomplished artist, illustrator, filmmaker, and animator, who has done several picture books. We are also cousins. Rob Broder at Ripple Grove asked me if I had any illustrators in mind for Too Many Tables. I asked him if he’d take a look, he liked it, and he signed on. After an initial series of discussions where we all looked at character designs and style, I put in a handful of special requests (and sent lots of pictures of tables I liked), then he and the publishers took over completely. I didn’t see any images until the book was nearly off to the printer many months later. That was nerve wracking, especially after being so closely involved in every page and detail of The Gentleman Bat, but I put my trust in the team and did a lot of deep breathing. It was amazing to see the finished book, so many wonderful surprises on every page, and Micah does really expressive and beautiful work.

You are an artist as well and your style is very eclectic. Can you tell us a bit about your art?

Art and artsy things are a big part of my daily life and identity. If I’m not actively making something or looking at other people’s art, I’m usually running some project or notion through my head, taking mental notes for later.

Many people consider a lot of things I make to be more than a little creepy or dark, lots of anatomy and bone stuff, but I usually think of it as new ways of looking at the materials that make us, the substance of people, questions about bodies and body image, nature and technology, gesture and context, what’s gross, what’s exciting, what’s beautiful.

I like to take things apart and build new things from the parts, rearranging and repurposing. Photography, clay, metal, collage, electronics, digital manipulation, and other media are fun in and of themselves, and also the means to experiment and explore and share deeper ideas. Words and language are part of the same big tool kit.

In the past couple of months I started working with 3D modeling software, adding some new dimensions to older ideas. A slow learning curve, but I’m seeing some huge potential.

What are your thoughts on the picture book as a work of art?

Making a whole series of cohesive images that illustrate a story within a book format is a really different process than making single, stand-alone artworks, or even a series around a theme. The format has certain major challenges and constraints, the images have to work together, and together with the text (if there is text), and there are also usually more people and opinions involved. It’s way harder than it might look. Again, so much hard work to appear effortless.

The first art many people are exposed to is in picture books. Some of the worlds that books create for us and our imaginations are absolutely magical, and certainly can shape how we grow as people. Even before writing my own books or buying books for my kids I’ve collected picture books for myself. They’re all mixed in on the same bookshelves as my other books for reference and inspiration. My mom recently sent me boxes of some of my old favorites that I remember looking at for hours on end as a kid, and now I can share them with my family.

Are you working on more picture books? Would you like to illustrate picture books too?

I’ve got a growing pile of stories in varying states, from penciled notes to finished manuscripts, some that rhyme, some that don’t. I keep tuning up my older ones. I have several new stories that I think are really solid, and I’ve been working on a few sequels and spinoffs of the first two books.

A few of the projects I would really love to illustrate. I have lots of sketches but few finished images for any of them. It’s intimidating when I start comparing myself to artists who might spend more disciplined time focused on drawing and painting. As you said before, my style is eclectic, I rarely stick to a consistent body of work for long, but I have some thoughts about how to play to my strengths and style to get some of these books done.

Where can fans go to learn more about you?

For a whole bunch about bats and The Gentleman Bat, I’ve put together a family friendly site,, with lots of resources and links about bats, bat conservation, awesome videos and science, the inspiration and illustration process for the book, a guide to some hidden details inside – all that and more. I don’t update as often, but have some fun future plans, so please check that out too.

My Facebook author page is here: I post readings and events, sometimes cute bat links, Ripple Grove Press news. I plan to do a book giveaway or two soon, but still haven’t figured out how all of that works. Questions, comments, or if you want to schedule an in-person or virtual school visit, please feel free to contact me there, and, as they say, please like and share.

My art page has some creepy, spooky, grown-up stuff on it, plenty of not-so-creepy stuff mixed in too, but best to poke around without kids looking on until you get a sense of what’s there.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog, and for all of these great questions! It’s been such fun reading all the responses from other authors and illustrators.

Thank you, Abraham, for sharing so much of your life and work with us!

To learn even more fascinating facts about Abraham, click HERE

Stay tuned, friends, for a special upcoming interview. Abraham will be interviewing me, right here on the Frog!

Interview Alert: Piotr Parda










As much as I adore picture books, I’m don’t often become misty-eyed while reading them. But there are always exceptions, and author/illustrator Piotr Parda’s brand new book Graduation Day is one of them. Graduation Day is an incredibly moving wordless picture book about a young girl who takes something negative and turns it into something beautifully positive. It’s a must see!

Graduation Day is Piotr’s second book. Before that, he illustrated The Gentleman Bat, another lovely book, which was written by Abraham Schroeder. Both books were published by Ripple Grove Press, the publisher of my book The Peddler’s Bed.

I’m very pleased to share this interview with the talented Piotr Parda!

Did you know from a young age that you were going to be an artist? Did your parents encourage your talent?

Yes, my parents are the very first people in my life to remember how throwing a piece of paper and a pencil or a crayon into my crib while I was crying was better than any pacifier in the world. But then again most children, if not all of them, enjoy drawing and painting, sculpting, cutting and gluing, making up alternate realities, performances, happenings, scientific experiments, installations, mixed media art and other things done for no reason. Some lose this interest along with their baby teeth and some don’t (or do but find a secret passage back to these imaginative shenanigans). I must say I lost it many times and I still do occasionally. Luckily so far I’ve been able to find the “secret passage” but always with great difficulty.

My parents have been supporting me since the “crib incidents” and they still do with curious enthusiasm but without projected ambition. I’m very lucky that way. They were never pushing or demanding results or telling me things like “you will never be able to support yourself!” or “become a doctor like your cousin!” They just were there with me.

What or who inspires your art?

So many things! Things of reality and things of art and by “art” here I mean just things other people make or made in the past. I enjoy watching people working on something, solving problems, building. Whether it’s a cooking/travel documentary or home improvement TV show or something about scientific process. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something innovative. “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross? Yes please!

I’ve watched all episodes of ‘Mythbusters’ until they just started to focus solely on guns and explosions probably encouraged by the popular demand of the American viewers. I find human nature quite inspiring too, I guess…

To me the best fuel for the creative spark has always been the work of other artists and innovators. When it comes to motivation nothing ever worked better for me than being exposed to other people’s creations.

And finally and fairly recently this one book I can’t stop reading since I first found out about it: “The Invention of Nature” by Andrea Wulf. If a child asked me to tell her “everything about the world” this is the one and only book I would reach for except it might be a bit too irrelevant for a small child.


Piotr At Work On A Page From The Gentleman Bat

How did Ripple Grove Press approach you to illustrate their first ever picture book, The Gentleman Bat?

The “approaching” was quite an intricate matter in this case. In 2006(?) Abraham Schroeder, the author of the book and friend, told me about his eerie idea for a story. When I heard he wanted to create a world full of anthropomorphic bats, wearing clothes, using contraptions, inhabiting mansions, dancing and being generally graceful, the first thing I told him was “it’s great but totally impossible to illustrate.” So we gave it a shot… We worked on our little project on and off for about eight years ending up with a few versions of the same story (each one unfinished) and hundreds of sketches and concepts. It was only after Abraham learned that his good friends are launching their own publishing business and love his story, we finally got a solid deadline and the prospect of having an actual book printed out. It was their first ever book to publish, so we thought it had better be done well!

Your illustrations in The Gentleman Bat are very different from your illustrations in your new picture book, Graduation Day. How do you decide what style of art works best for a story?

I think it extends beyond books. I’ve been “accused” of having created the most disparate and confusingly diverse body of work ever but I feel like every single idea deserves special technical considerations. It’s always interesting to come up with techniques that harmonize with the idea. Even subtle things make a great difference: a book about saving trees printed on recycled paper, a story about coal miners with illustrations drawn with coal or illustrations for a book about bees drawn with wax crayons. But sometimes I’m not even sure how to reconcile the fact of having to stay within the 40 page story book format. Why not a novel? Why not a puppet show? Why not an animation? A feature blockbuster? On the other hand having some parameters and limitations to work with provides a good balance.

The technique for “The Gentleman Bat” was the result of many discussions and negotiations with the author. It had to be of a specific style resembling the one used in the old-timey Victorian illustrations additionally inspired by an old Japanese woodblock print. “Graduation Day” was an independent project so I guess you might say this is the kind of “classic Parda” style Parda would be most likely to employ (but only for this particular project perhaps?).


A Spread From Graduation Day

Why did you decide to make Graduation Day a wordless book?

It was a very simple decision. I wrote the story (with English words). The main character was the narrator. It was cute. Then I drew the pictures and read it again. It was HORRIBLE! The text had to go and a few additional images had to be squeezed in to complete the sequence and there it was! Can you imagine doing that while working with a writer? I always knew there was a reason the writers have to be good at what they are doing.


A Spread From Graduation Day

Graduation Day is incredibly moving. Do you have a personal connection to the message of the story?

The primary inspiration came to me one late August while I was walking through my quite industrial looking neighborhood. There were all sorts of weeds sprouting from the cracks in the pavement. Some of them very tall and interesting. Yes, I know plants growing through concrete inspired many people already and made quite a few motivational posters in corporate offices everywhere but this time it felt as if I was looking at it with a fresh perspective. I thought the plants were beautiful in the way of their variety, diversity and versatility. It wasn’t really about brute force but flexibility and perseverance. It made me think about the crushing majority of humans living on this planet having no choice but to make things work with what’s around them. And if they manage to do it, they improve their worlds in a lasting way and against overwhelming odds. It’s much more powerful and long lasting than the top down brute force of an angry sledgehammer.

For an unknown reason the time of executing “Graduation Day” was quite an anxious period in my life. Sometimes anxiety just comes unannounced and yells “surprise!” The project took me about a year and by the time I was finished, and not without some amazing help and support, I learned how to manage anxiety. Strangely, managing anxiety turned out not very different from (spoiler alert!) putting a sunflower seed in your pocket.


The Star Of Graduation Day From Many Angles

Would you like to illustrate more children’s picture books?


Where can fans go to learn more about you and your art?

My potential fans but also those who dislike my art or are on the fence about it can follow the publisher’s website:

or just go to my site if only to witness the organized randomness:

I also participate in the Brickbottom Open Studios in Somerville, MA, along with countless other artists in the building every November one week before Thanksgiving.

Thank you, Piotr, for sharing a little bit of yourself with Frog on a Blog readers!


Piotr’s “Mug Shot”

More about Piotr and his art process from his website: “Making things has always been something of a magical thing to me. Growing up in the former People’s Republic of Poland, I had to accept the fact that there are places I can never go to, and things I can never have. It meant that I had to imagine, draw and paint places I would want to go to, and build things I would want to have. So I drew and painted, built toys out of wood scraps and paper, “electronic” watches out of tin foil or a life size car out of four chairs and a blanket. To me making art still means making a world for myself to inhabit and enjoy. The world I build is not imitating or mimicking the reality. It is rather an addition if not an alternative to it. I don’t commit to one particular style or medium. Current creations reflect an instinctive urge to explore a particular field of interest that appears at one particular time. The process is open, dynamic and free of schedule.”