I apologize for posting late today, but life has tossed me a curve with the sudden loss of my father-in-law. I’m out in California with my family, helping to plan his celebration of life while trying to keep up with my writing projects and blog.
Last week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I reviewed debut author, Viviane Elbee’s book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski. As promised, here is the interview.
Welcome, Viviane, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your debut picture book and road to publication. I’m excited to have you here today.
Me: Who were your favorite authors when you were a child and why did you love their books best?
Viviane: Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were my favorite authors in elementary school. SUPERFUDGE and TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and RAMONA made me laugh so hard. I remember reading THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE and loving the idea of having a pet mouse with a motorcycle.
I also have fond memories of the librarian reading THE SNOWY DAY at story time and just enjoying the wonder the little boy felt in the snow.
Me: Was there a book you never tired of hearing or reading when you were a child?
Viviane: I could re-read all of my favorite books over and over. Well, to be honest, I even read cereal boxes over and over. If I see words I just can’t help but read them.
Me: Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to write for children? (Or how you came to write for children?)
Viviane: I’ve always loved writing, but for a long time I thought I would write novels. After my first child was born, I fell in love with picture books. That’s when I decided I wanted to write for children.
Me: If you could go back in time to when you began your writing journey, what advice or words of wisdom would you tell yourself?
Viviane: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that it’s important to be a prolific writer. I spent my first three years of serious children’s writing on one picture book manuscript. At the end of three years, I had one submission-ready story (which hasn’t sold yet!), but one of my critique partners had written many stories within that same time period – and she got published! Quality is important, but if publication is your goal, it’s best to work on several ideas at a time.
Me: Describe the spot in your home where you write and at what time of day you write best.
Viviane: I get a lot of first drafts done at a nearby Barnes & Noble where I meet up with a writing buddy. It’s very inspirational to be surrounded by books and it’s also great to have someone you can bounce ideas off of while writing. I also love sprawling out on the floor of my den, in front of large floor to ceiling windows, and writing there. I write best in the morning or daytime.
Me: What inspired the idea for your debut picture book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski?
Viviane: I got the idea for a ski story during my family’s very first ski trip. My kindergartener and preschooler helped pack, so a menagerie of stuffed animals joined us on the trip. During the day we took lessons and at night the stuffed animals became “jumping ski champions,” sliding down pillows and leaping through the air. My husband and I started making a lot of jokes about the skiing giraffe, which made our kids laugh.
After my book was acquired, my editor suggested digging deeper to better bring out the little boy’s fears of the big scary slope. To do this, I reflected back on my own experiences. I learned to ski at the same time as my kids. They were fearless and I was scared. After getting lessons, we took the kids on the ski lift to the top of a green slope (an easy slope). It was so much bigger than the bunny hill. I remember looking downhill and being petrified. I couldn’t move. But the kids took off. Obviously, I had to follow. And it turned out to be fun!
Me: How long did it take you to write this book?
Viviane: From the time I got the idea to the moment the publishing house said it was “ready” it took nearly 4 years. I spent about 2 years on it before querying it.
Me: Were there any surprises along the way from the point you started writing your book to the moment it was published?
Viviane: Yes, there were a lot of surprises. The first surprise was when I took my manuscript to an SCBWI conference critique and met an editor, Annie Nybo, who loved the story and who asked me to submit to her. (I was expecting her to give me lots of suggestions for improvement, but I was not expecting a submission request!). I sent the manuscript off and heard nothing. Months later, when I decided to nudge, I discovered Annie Nybo had left her publishing house. More months passed, and one day my friend texted to tell me that Annie Nybo had joined Albert Whitman. So I emailed her. I wasn’t sure she would remember my manuscript, so I attached a copy in the nudge email. To my amazement, she responded the next day with an offer.
Me: What is the takeaway message you hope readers hold on to after reading your book?
Viviane: Be adventurous and try new things.
Me: What is your favorite moment or page in your book?
Viviane: It’s tough to pick a favorite moment, but I love the illustration of the little boy hugging his giraffe.
Me: Can you share something interesting most people don’t know about you?
Viviane: I’ve seen giraffes in 6 different zoos – Columbia SC, Atlanta GA, Ashboro NC, Bordeux-Pessac zoo in France, Zoo-Parc de Beauval in France and Singapore Zoo in Singapore.
Thank you, Viviane, I enjoyed having you here today.
Vivian’s book will be available on November first.
Amazon link to Viviane’s book can be found HERE.
Visit Viviane Elbee’s website HERE.
Until next Friday.