In late January, I reviewed a picture book by debut author, Julia Richardson. Her beautiful book, Dandelion Seeds The World, is enjoying its birthday today, which makes today the best day for her interview! Please welcome Julia.
Me: Who were your favorite authors when you were a child and why did you love their books?
Julia: Gene Stratton Porter, L.M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett…and many more. Anything with a focus on nature appealed to me.
Me: Was there a book you never tired of hearing or reading when you were a child, and what was it about the story that you loved so much?
Julia: To this day, I love visiting dear Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I’ve read it so many times I have it memorized, yet it never fails to lift my spirits. Anne’s vivid imagination and appreciation of beauty are pure enchantment.
Me: Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to write for children?
Julia: I began writing for children when I was just a child myself through my hobby marionette theater. My sisters and I wrote plays and performed for tolerant relatives on a wobbly stage made of couch cushions. This hobby continued into adulthood. Though I wrote into the wee hours of the night, it never occurred to me to attempt publication until the day I received a letter from a mother, who brought her son to a marionette show that I gave at the local library. Unbeknownst to me, the little boy passed away shortly after the show from cancer. She told me he laughed and laughed during the marionette show and thanked me for making his last hours memorable. Then she encouraged me to pursue a career with children. Five years later I had my first offer of publication.
Me: What inspired the idea for your debut picture book, Little Dandelion Seeds the World?
Julia: The idea sprang from my sons’ interests when they were young. One of them adored animals and the other was fascinated with different parts of the world. I wanted to write a book that combined these two topics, a book that both of my boys would have loved. But how?
For months, I wracked my brain for an original way to weave the two topics together. I was at a complete loss until the day my yard bloomed in drifts of dandelions. (For those of you opposed to dandelions, I find them delightful.) The golden blooms seemed to be everywhere.
That thought spurred me into action. I raced to my computer and quickly discovered that dandelions bloom all over the world. Since they are spread by animals and loved by children, dandelions morphed into the nugget of my story. Even better, the addition of seed travel added a STEM component.
Me: Were there any surprises along your path to publication?
Julia: The biggest surprise was that the path led to publication at all. I know plenty of unpublished writers with talent far superior to mine.
Me: Describe the moment when your agent told you Sleeping Bear Press wanted to acquire your manuscript.
Julia: Actually, my first manuscript sold pre-agent. An online platform called KidLit College offered an opportunity to Facetime and discuss a manuscript with an editor. Sarah Rockett from Sleeping Bear Press made a few suggestions for revision and asked me to resubmit. I remember thinking she wasn’t interested or she would have made more suggestions. By that time, the manuscript had been rejected so many times I assumed it needed a complete overhaul. It took me about 20 minutes to complete her suggestions. I stared at it for a few days and then resubmitted. A few weeks later these lovely words arrived in my inbox:
Me with my family a few weeks before my facetime with Sarah Rockett.
We had an acquisition meeting last week and have decided to move forward with Little Dandelion! Everyone LOVED this story. It topped all of our lists at discussion. We’re so thrilled to add it to our publishing program!
I leaped out of my chair and raced through the house shouting, “I did it! I did it! I’m a children’s book author!”
Me: If you could go back to the day you began your writing journey, knowing what you know today, is there anything you would do differently?
Julia: Since my writing journey began when I was a child, I would follow my passions rather than do the expected. It took a lot of years to realize my creativity was a gift.
Me: Where do you love to write, and what makes this place special to you?
Julia: My favorite place to write is a hammock hooked to a massive maple tree. It’s a secluded spot next to a big white barn that overlooks a field full of wildflowers. High in the branches, orioles pour out passionate melodies. In the spring, the air is scented with lavender lilacs.
Me: Can you share something interesting most people don’t know about you?
Julia: When no one is looking, I climb trees.
This is me, pre-published, at a writing conference costume party. I was Eeyore under a black cloud of rejection.
Many thanks for visiting today.
Until next Friday.