2017 NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY FOUR – GUEST AUTHOR Q&A WITH TERRY PIERCE! (May 4, 2017)

Meet Guest Author Terry Pierce!
MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN By Terry Pierce, Illustrated by Carol Schwartz (Tilbury House 2017)
MAMA LOVES YOU SO By Terry Pierce, illustrated by Simone Shin (Little Simon 2017)

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PAULA’S 2017 NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY THREE RECAP (May 3, 2017)

Before I recap my Day 3, I wanted to share some pics! Above is my desk at home and my favorite writing snack. 🙂 I recently got this secretary desk from World Cost Plus Market. It fits my tiny office perfectly and I can fold it up to hide my computer and iPad. I can even write standing up with it (when I shut it into a box, I place the laptop on top to write). Here’s a link if you want to see more pics of it: https://www.worldmarket.com/product/secretary+desk.do?

As for my writing snacks – I am a foodie. I tend to prefer savory over sweet snacks, so I love to eat lots of gourmet cheese and wine (at night) and during the day, hot tea, especially green tea! As for a guilty pleasure snack for writing, I’m really into salty stuff, especially Pringles plain potato chips. (As evidenced above LOL!)

For Day 3, I decided to write the draft of another picture book biography I had been doing research on earlier in the year.  There was an Asian American scientist I wanted to write about, so on Day 2, I went through my research notes and photos and came up with a structure on how to tell his story. (I also tend to focus on diverse historical subjects given that is my speciality with Lee & Low Books.)

So for Day 3 (or really Night 3), I just rolled up my sleeves and wrote a really really ROUGH first draft. It was hard and took several hours but it was worth it. My biggest hurdle when I write biographies is that most of my first drafts start out reading like newspaper or magazine articles instead of actual books. The illusion is that it SEEMS easier focusing on non-fiction because the story is already there – you have a beginning, middle and end to the person’s life story. But non-fiction can be HARDER to write because you have to dig deeper beyond the basic facts of a person’s life and find the emotional heart of their journey and what inspired them to change our world for the better.

So for Day 3, I focused on making sure that instead of using omniscient point-of-view, I wrote the story from the main character’s perspective as a child and focused on his emotional journey. That’s a helpful tip I learned over the years when it comes to writing picture book biographies.

So my Day 3 first draft is done! It’s not that great and needs to be fleshed out, of course, but I’m happy I have a working rough draft that I can now go back and do extra research on and see what details I can add to enhance it.

Oh, and one more thing I realized from today. Remember how on Day One and how I naively said I would do 7 picture book biographies in 7 days? WHAT A TERRIBLE IDEA. LOL. 😛 🙂 I forgot how intense it is to write these with the research and outlining. I thought I could do it because I actually have TONS of research done already on most of these ideas, but decided I bit off more than I could chew.

In fact, the biography I wrote on Day 1 – I realized in hindsight that it doesn’t really work. I think the picture book genre is too young for the topics. But this is still a VICTORY because NAPIBOWRIWEE makes us realize which ideas we have sometimes work better in a different genre. You just don’t know until you try!

BUT… today’s biography? I love it so much that I am going to submit it to my book agent once I really dig in and revise it to perfection. So that was a success!

So Day 4 is going to be interesting – what will I write? Stay tuned and find out tomorrow!

Until then, please enjoy our latest interview with special guest author, the Terrific Terry Pierce, to inspire you… AND ME… on Day 4!

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DAY 4 – GUEST AUTHOR Q&A WITH TERRY PIERCE

Welcome to Day 4’s Guest Author TERRY PIERCE!

BIO: TERRY PIERCE is the author of twenty children’s books, including MAMA LOVES YOU SO, MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN, and TAE KWON DO! (2007 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books). She has a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Development and an A.M.I. Montessori teaching diploma.  She was a Montessori teacher for twenty-two years before deciding to follow her dream of writing for children. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, including the Picture Book Concentration certification. She currently teaches children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is a client of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. For more information, please visit her website at www.terrypiercebooks.com.

PUBLICATION INFO: MAMA LOVES YOU SO (Illustrated by Simone Shin, from Little Simon, March 14, 2017) This board book celebrates a mother’s love surpassing even majestic mother nature…a mama’s love is higher than any mountain and deeper than any stream. The perfect book for nature-loving parents and their little ones.

PUBLICATION INFO: MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN (Illustrated by Carol Schwartz, Tilbury House, January 31, 2017) This cumulative story is a lyrical tribute to the bugs, bees, and birds that make the garden such a busy place. With each turned page, more visitors appear, and all the while the “surprise”―a chrysalis―changes unnoticed until, on the last page, a butterfly emerges and flies away across the garden’s well-tended borders.

Q&A INTERVIEW WITH TERRY PIERCE

―What was it like to write a board book? Did you originally think it would be a PB or did you always envision it as a board book? What was the process like to write that versus a picture book? Are there certain “rules” you had to address?

While I had written a handful of board book manuscripts, I wrote MAMA LOVES YOU SO as a picture book, albeit a simple one with a vision of stunning artwork (due to the nature scenes). My agent submitted it as a picture book but, as my editor told me, when she read it, she thought, “Bingo! There it is!” meaning it was exactly the kind of story she was seeking for a new board book line, New Books for Newborns, she and her team at Little Simon were planning. I’d always wanted to publish a board book, so when my agent called me with the offer, I was thrilled! As far as the process for writing a board book, it’s all about keeping it simple. Sparse text (under 100 words), a singular plotline with a tight focus, simple concepts and action are what board books are all about. Also, board books have fewer pages than a standard 32-page picture book, typically with seven double-page spreads for the entire story. Most original board books are focused on something familiar to a baby or toddler. Their daily routines, family life, and concepts such as animals, colors or shapes are good examples. And the writing itself needs to be sparse with rhythm, rhyme (if it fits for the story) and repetition.

— What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books?

I was a Montessori pre-primary teacher before trying my hand at writing children’s books. I loved reading picture books to my students and always thought it would be fun to write them. To me, picture books are a work of fine art. The balance of the text and the illustrations make a unique art form that, when combined with an adult reader and a child listener, creates nothing short of magic.

— Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

I also love writing easy readers (technically under the “picture book” umbrella), particularly books for pre-K through Grade 1. It’s probably the former teacher in me that enjoys writing books that will help young children who are just learning to read. I’ve also dipped my toes (or should I say fingers) into writing a middle-grade adventure novel. It was fun having the freedom to use longer words and sentences and challenge myself in a different way.

— What do you like most about picture book writing versus other genres?

Writing with a sparse text that is filled with luscious language. Having to “think visually” as I write to ensure that I leave room for the illustrator to do his/her job.

— What is the most challenging part about writing picture books?

Well, I could repeat myself and say writing with a sparse text that is filled with luscious language and having to “think visually” as I write to ensure that I leave room for the illustrator to do his/her job. Why? Because it took years of writing and studying picture books to get to a place where the challenge has become so much fun. But more specifically, characterization has always been something I have to work at. I’m getting better, but it took me years to understand how to bring more heart into my work. Some authors are amazing at this and find this to be their strength. For me, I think my strength is creating rich language and writing stories that will draw in the youngest of readers. My writing axiom is to get young children excited about books so they’ll develop a lifelong love of reading and literature. What better way to accomplish this than writing books young children will want to hear again and again?

— Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea? 

My first book, TWO TALES OF HAWAII, was a picture book inspired by a family hike across the lava fields of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was an amazing experience (I still get chills thinking about it!). We had to hike back to our car by flashlight! Feeling the steam rise through the cracks in the lava, the roar of the lava flow on one side contrasted by the ocean waves on the other, feeling the heat rise from the ground. It was amazing. I knew I had to write a children’s book about volcanoes. However, I wanted to include the reverence Hawaiian people have for Pele, the Goddess of Fire. So, I created two parallel storylines so the science of Hawaiian volcanoes came on the left-side of each double-page spread, and the story of Pele appeared on the right-side of each spread. It was a unique format for a first book.

— How long did it take to write (for artists – or illustrate & write)? 

I worked on TWO TALES OF HAWAII for about six months or so before submitting it. I decided to send it to a Hawaiian-based publisher because it was a regional topic. Within a couple of months, I received an offer.

— Any fun or interesting details about the road to your first book’s publication?

Not so much with my first book’s publication, but I did experience something interesting with my most recent picture book, MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. I wrote the original story in 2008. I wanted to write a cumulative story with a garden setting. I submitted it a current editor but she declined it. I subbed it to a handful of other editors with the same results.

In 2009, I attended an SCBWI retreat and read the first page to an editor. She liked it and asked me to send her the full manuscript. I did so and a few months later (when I was beginning the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts), I received her letter of decline. I set it aside, feeling too busy to deal with it (packets were due, after all!).

Fast forward to 2014. I was cleaning my office and found the editor’s letter (yeah, my office gets that messy at times!). She said she really liked the manuscript but it was missing something, a spark. That got me thinking. What could I add to the story to spark a child’s curiosity? The original story began: This is my busy green garden. Here’s the surprise that hangs in my busy green garden. I loved the idea of alluding to a surprise in the garden, but what kind of “spark” could I add? What would grab a young reader’s attention? After puzzling over it for days, it came to me. I added three words… This is my busy green garden. Here’s the surprise, In clever disguise, that hangs in my busy green garden. I knew kids love surprises, disguises and searching for things in pictures so I hoped this was the spark that would make my manuscript stand out.

I electronically submitted it to Tilbury House and within two hours, my editor wrote back and told me he was very interested in publishing my book. Within a month, they made me an offer!

I’m sharing this story to let NaPiBoWriWee participants know that when you have a story you believe in, that is well-written with kid-appeal, don’t give up on it. Especially if you’re getting personal feedback and “nibbles” of interest from editors. Think about what might be missing—what you can do to give it that final bit of polish and shine. What is the spark? That could be all that’s standing between you and a book deal.

— Do you have a favorite picture book or a picture book that most inspires you? If so, which one is it and why?

I can’t name a single favorite title, but I do have favorite authors whose work inspires me: Phyllis Root, Eve Bunting, and Lisa Wheeler for using language rich with rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Kevin Henkes, Bob Graham, and Oliver Jeffers for their strong emotional connection and writing with heart.

— What is your favorite picture book that you’ve written?

On March 14, my first board book, MAMA LOVES YOU SO, was released by Simon & Schuster (illustrated by the amazing Simone Shin). This book holds a special place in my heart because I got the story idea when my son was a baby (he’s now 32!). That was long before I’d even considered writing children’s books, but after hearing the song, “Longer” by singer Dan Fogelberg, I thought that someone should write a children’s book that equates a mother’s love for her baby to the power of nature. That idea hung in my head all those years. Two years ago, while hiking in the mountains near Mammoth Lakes, CA, the idea struck me again, as if my infant son was there with me, bobbing along in his Gerrypack. I sat down and wrote it right at once (I always carry a small notepad and pencil with me when I hike). When I first held the book in my hands, it struck an emotional chord like no other book I’d written. It speaks to the power of love. I just adore it and hope outdoorsy moms everywhere will love reading it to their little one.

— Where is the best place for you to write your books?

I love writing out in nature because my mind feels free and creative while I’m outdoors, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate with me on that. My favorite indoor place to write is my father-in-law’s chair that was passed down to me. It’s old, broken in and very comfy. It’s flanked by two windows with a cat perch on each one. One of the arm rests is usually in the sun and occupied by my female cat. Sometimes my male cat sits on top of the chair, flicking me with his tail. I guess I don’t really have cats, I have co-authors!

— If you weren’t a writer/artist, what would you be?

I was a Montessori pre-primary teacher for 22 years before trying my hand at writing, so I would probably still be doing that. Working with young children keeps you young and being a teacher allows you to be creative in different ways. Plus, other than being a parent, there’s no greater or more important work than teaching children.

— Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

Ha! Time to reveal a secret, huh? Well, believe it or not, this is writing-related but something most people don’t know about me is that I kiss my cats on the lips (not their mouth, but their furry lips where their whiskers are). How on earth is this writing-related, you must be wondering? Well, when I first began submitting my children’s stories, I received many rejections. After a while, all the rejections were starting to get to me. I decided I needed some kind of writing success, so I tried writing articles for pet magazines. One of the first things I had published was a humorous article for I Love Cats magazine, called “How to Kiss a Cat and Not Get Furry Lips.” And, even stranger, that piece was the only thing I’ve ever written that resulted in my receiving an adult fan letter.

— If you could give one piece of writing advice for our NaPiBoWriWee participants, what would it be?

I always recommend joining the SCBWI. But for NaPiBoWriWee participants, who are likely SCBWI members already, I’d say Never Give Up. If you work hard, be open-minded, develop your writing skills, and persevere, you’ll find success. But saying to persevere is sometimes easier said than done. Last year, on the EMU’s Debuts blog, (https://emusdebuts.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-pit-of-despair/)

I wrote about what I call The Pit of Despair—that dark, hopeless place where all writers sometimes find themselves. I wrote that piece because it’s important to know that 1) we all have serious setbacks, and 2) we’re not alone when we experience them. Connecting with other writers is vital to surviving this business. We really do need each other.

And one last bit of advice. Don’t be afraid to take a writing course. I love retreats, workshops and conferences, but when you take a writing course, you dive more deeply into the genre. Doing so helps you develop a stronger understanding of the genre and usually provides an opportunity for feedback on your work. While I’m partial to the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program because I teach for them, there are many other writing courses available today, both online and on-site.

— There’s been a growing demand for more diversity in children’s book publishing. What are your thoughts on that?

I love seeing more diverse books coming out! I’ve always believed that “tolerance” isn’t enough, that we should embrace each other’s differences. Not to sound political, but diversity is what has made our country what it is today. And every time I see a new diverse book coming out, I can’t help but think about how many children or teens will read that book and say, “Hey! This book is about me!” and feel more understood. And what a gift that is to a child, to feel recognized and validated.

— There’s been increasing pressure for writers to be active on social media. Are you on social media? If so, where can your readers reach you? Has social media helped your writing journey and career? Any advice for writers who might feel overwhelmed by the social media “burden”?

Yes, I am on social media. I blog via my website at https://terrypiercebooks.com/terrys-blog/ and I have a professional Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TerryPierceAuthor/ It’s hard to say if/how social media has helped my writing journey but I do know this—more than once in my career I’ve had potential editors (or agents when I was seeking one), tell me that they viewed my website and were impressed with what they saw. Because of this, I highly recommend that once you have your first publication deal in hand, create a professional website. It’s a great way to show the world what you’re all about and it could land you writing opportunities down the road.

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MANY HUGS to the Terrific Terry Pierce! Wow, what a treasure trove of info and pearls of wisdom! And thanks to Terry for also graciously donating signed copies of her latest books for our random drawing contest! (Results posted May 8, 2017) (Note: To participate in the contest, all you have to do is post at least one comment on my blog and I’ll include you in the drawing!)

Okay I know we are halfway there… don’t give up! I know some of you probably are getting burned out because this IS an intense week. But hang in there! Remember to post your comments in my blog about your progress so far!

For Day 4, since I talked a lot about writing biographies, my writing question for you is – do you write mostly fiction or non-fiction, and why? Post your answers in the comments for this blog and/or our Facebook page or on Twitter!

And please return tomorrow May 5, 2017 for our Guest Author Q&A with EMMA OTHEGUY! As always, my blogs are posted daily at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST. Until then, HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂

 

74 Comments »

  1. Thank you for this terrific post! I had to pause reading it halfway through to go off and work on picture book idea, sparked by Terry’s words. Thank you both for sharing this conversation.

    In answer to Paula’s question, currently my stories are all fiction, though several ideas waiting in my Idea File are biographical non-fiction.

  2. This so hit my nature-loving heart! I have several raw ideas involving some aspect of nature and our interactions, so I feel I am totally justified in seeking out Terry’s books as mentor texts now!
    Thank you again, Paula (can we keep saying that every day?) for this week. Each perspective brings a new inspiration.

  3. Hi, Terry and Paula. This interview really speaks to me as a former teacher, an older writer and one who is getting some”nibbles.” I persist! Paula, it IS much harder to write PB bios than one would think. I’ve been attacking one for 3 years now and I still don’t have it done correctly. “Tis a “puzzlement.” That said, I enjoy reading them as mentor texts, and I did try another PB bio a few days ago, but w/ a new biographee. I divide my time between F and NF. F comes easier, but as a former school librarian, facts fascinate me.

    • Yep, mine those teaching memories, Kathi :). As teachers, we get to see aspects of children that others may not.

      And Paula, I’ve written three PB biographies with no acceptances. One was “too big” for a PB, the other one was “too common” and the third was scooped up by another author and his publisher. It’s a hard genre to write not only because of all the extensive research, but you have to find the perfect way to tell the story. And when it gets turned down (to where your agent says it’s time to give up), THAT is what stings the most (at least, to me!).

  4. Great interview with Terry. I was particularly interested in hearing about Board Books.
    As for what I write, now I am writing mostly fiction though my published pbs are more of a hybrid such as Somewhere, If Peace Is… and Touch the Earth (all published by MONDO). All have an environmental/peace theme. I have never tried writing a biography. That genre still scares me! Perhaps it’s because I can’t find the structure in the story or maybe I haven’t found the right story to tell!

    • It sounds like we’re writing-sisters, Jane, with our love of environmental/peace themes :).
      One thing I’ve discovered about writing PB biographies is that the path to success seems to be in the telling, in HOW the author conveys the story. And what makes it difficult is that there are so many outstanding examples (NF is hot-hot-hot right now!). But each example is successful because it works for the particular subject of the book. So, can’t just look at one exemplary text and say, “Aha! This is how you do it!” because what worked for that subject might not work for another subject. Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but it seems to me that it’s all in the telling (style, voice, tone, presentation of facts).
      But I always say to write from your heart, not to trends.

  5. I mostly write fiction, but I have dived deep into research for a couple of fascinating and inspiring people. Speaking of inspiring, today’s post of fantastic. So much sage advice. Thank you! Draft 4 is done!

  6. So far I have only written fiction, but I love good non-fiction books. They seem more daunting to attempt somehow but it is my goal for this week to write at least one.

  7. My fav bit in this interview created a word picture for me I believe I’ll carry for a long time. The willingness to plop down in the middle of a hiking trail to jot out a story speaks volumes. The value of getting back to nature, being prepared (carrying the pencil/paper with you), following your muse, refusing to let others opinions bug you — it’s all there. Love, love, love it!

    • Aww, thank you, Michele! Yes, there’s nothing like being alone in nature to “hear” your thoughts more clearly. John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” Word to live by, at least, for me!

  8. Great interview, Terry! Thank you for giving us a peek at your writing process… I was particularly interested in hearing about writing Board Books.

    Growing up in a small rural town in Vermont with my grandmother’s farm 25 minutes away in South Reading I was surrounded by nature… and being on crutches made it so I naturally had to “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak…

    To answer Paula’s question, my stories are roughly half fiction and half non-fiction. I have 12 StoryStorm ideas that are biographical and waiting for me in my non-fiction file.

    • Thank you, Sharon. Luckily, board books are on the rise in the industry, but the thing to remember is that because of their construction (heavy, thick paper), they cost more to publish. Because of this, they’re a bit harder for an unpublished writer to sell as a first book. Publishers like to look at a writer’s sales record with previous books before taking a big financial risk, like a board book. Just something to keep in mind. Keep pursuing your picture books in addition to the board books :).

  9. I write a lot of non fiction. I also like to write fictional stories that bring in science themes. I used to be a high school biology teacher and now I am teaching elementary science from 2 year olds all the way through fifth grade. As a teacher I want to show my students how fantastic our world is and all the wonders there are even if its just in our back yard. I would love to publish books that would do the same thing.

    I just added a bunch of Terry’s books to my wish list. I cant’ wait to read Two tales of Hawaii. My fourth graders do a big volcano project and it might be the perfect addition to my library!

    • Wow, Nicole, that’s a wide age range you teach! My first book, Two Tales of Hawaii, is out of print 🙁 but hopefully you can find a copy. I’m sure your students would enjoy the dual-approach to learning about the Hawaiian volcanoes 🙂 Thank you!

  10. Thanks for another great interview, Paula and Terry! Terry – I love how nature inspires your stories! And also how you were able to find “the spark” to your story after so much time had gone by. Looking forward to reading your new books! Congratulations!

  11. Thanks for another great interview, Paula and Terry! Terry – I love how nature inspires your stories! And also how you were able to find “the spark” to your story after so much time had gone by. Looking forward to reading your new books!
    Now I’m off to work on another draft!
    Congratulations!

  12. I am relatively new to trying picture books, so I have written mainly fiction, but I have a few ideas for picture book biographies that I am really excited about. I’m waiting until I have time off this summer (I’m a school librarian) to dig deeper into research. Thanks for your thoughts on finding the child’s perspective and emotional resonance for PB bios!

    • The amazing Erin Murphy once said that every picture book (fiction and nonfiction) must have a “moment of emotional truth” so I always try to keep that at the forefront of my mind when I’m writing. Good luck with your summer writing, Angela!

  13. What a great I interview. I finished my draft earlier today, making it 4 for 4, and was feeling quite happy with life … and then checked my email to catch up on things and boo hoo, waiting in my inbox was a rejection from an agent. It took the wind out of my sails … but then I read this post and have taken the Don’t Give Up to heart. I have only tackled fiction so far but Terry has inspired me to spread my wings into non fiction. Thanks for the wise words!

    • Oh dear! Sorry to hear about the agent decline. FYI, regarding not giving up, I subbed to 67 other agents before I got a “Yes” from my agent (you can read about my agent journey on my blog). Keep at it, and put those “declines” in a folder called “Learning Experiences” to put a positive light on them 🙂

  14. I have been pulling out old stuff to brush up, too! Glad to hear if the love is there – and with enough revisions! – it can come to life!

    Finished Day 4 manuscript!

  15. I write mostly fiction inspired by real life. The kids I teach in my free time inspire some really zany ideas and my brain is wired to “weird”.

  16. I had a fun idea for a die-cut board book that I finally started on today. Glue, scissors and cardboard – hooray! Just a simple dummy to start, but it was a nice change from the laptop.
    Whether fiction or non-fiction I feel as though I am always researching my subject matter to make sure I have a firm grasp on the facts and fun details.

    • Awesome, Cathy! I love making book dummies for my stories in their various stages. There’s nothing else that gives a realistic sense of the read-aloud aspect of a story. Plus, yea for art supplies!

  17. A fantastic post, Terry. Thank you so much.
    I write fiction. I love making stuff up. Every time I come up with a NF idea, I end up putting it to the side in favor of the fiction.

  18. Thanks for an inspirational interview. My published works are all nonfiction and professional development. I made a conscious decision to move to fiction. I have a middle grade novel that has gotten a couple of nibbles, but despite that promising interest, there is something missing that keeps it from being picked up by an agent or publisher. Terry, your discussion of the spark – and your ultimate success- is very encouraging. I’m loving working on the shorter texts this week, and I think there will be a couple of very worthy pieces to go back and work on once the challenge ends. Thanks for the motivation!

  19. That’s wonderful, Susan. And best of luck with the novel. My agent just send out my first novel a couple of weeks ago. I know this is picture book week, but two novel-writing resources I’ve found to be very helpful are K.M. Weiland’s website (tremendous amount of resources) and Martha Alderson’s books (she’s known as the plot whisperer). Good luck with all your writing!

  20. Thanks Terry — and Paula!
    I write both fiction and non-fiction (both natural-science oriented and PB bios) — because I love just climbing aboard any kind of idea idea and seeing where it takes me. Today though, I wrote hardly anything at all! I had a school visit and barely even got #4 started. Tomorrow: double duty!!

  21. Thanks for sharing, Terry! I like the concept of TWO TALES OF HAWAII. And I look forward to reading MAMA LOVES YOU SO. It sounds like a great mentor text for writing a board book.
    Today, I edited my haikus. Then outlined a new picture book in my living room. Too wet to write outside. And the wind nearly took my umbrella away.

    • Thanks, Manju. If you haven’t read the “Baby Loves Science” series, check them out. Simply written but full of science. (I never would have thought to write a baby book on quarks!).

  22. Reading today’s blog was a little Twilight Zone-ish for me. First off I’m declaring a successful day 4 with a rough draft that needs fleshed out significantly, but DOES have a beginning/middle/end.
    To explain the Twilight Zone, my story today involved nature and insects and gardens… then I read today’s post and immediately see Terry’s Garden book.
    My story started with a title and two columns, intended for two parallel perspectives. Then I read about Terry’s Hawaiian volcano story with a science and Pele parallels.
    Thirdly, while drafting, I Googled several ideas to find non-fiction facts to include in this work of fiction–a contrast from my normal completely-made-up fiction tales. And then Paula asks… fiction or nonfiction? (The *why* is actually less clear to me as I’m trying to explain the why, so I’ll omit answering and note to myself that maybe I should consider trying nonfiction.)

    • Oh, that’s too funny, Trisha! Almost serendipitous ;-). If you can glean anything from my books, go for it! It sounds like you have a very creative approach. Best of luck!

  23. So I don’t know what category my writing falls under I look at it as life like in a fictional concept. Anyway, May the 4th be with you.

  24. Thanks so much, Terry and Paula! I really like the idea that a picture book must have a “spark” and a “moment of emotional truth.” I’m going to remember that, as I revise my picture-books-in-progress! To answer Paula’s question, I hop back and forth between genres. I’ve been working on a fictional middle grade novel and sequel, fictional picture books and chapter books, autobiographical and political essays, and recently I’ve begun to write poems. I started writing a nonfiction picture book, but revised it as a magazine article and just sold it 🙂 I enjoy switching between genres, and it helps me avoid writer’s block. But sometimes I switch too much, smile. I’m really enjoying NaPiBoWriWee as it’s motivating me to focus and create a complete draft each day! For Day 4, I wrote a fictional PB based on a historical character about whom there’s not a lot of information. It was fun!

  25. Wonderful interview. Thanks Terry and Paula! Though I mostly write historical and biographical picture books, I managed a shaky fictional first draft today. It just wouldn’t come, but fortunately I’m moon-lighting at the front desk of a hotel today, so plenty of time to coax the story onto paper. If not for NaPiBoWriWee, I’d have definitely put it aside, but I couldn’t let my writing peeps down. Thank-you a thousand times for this challenge.

  26. Thank you, Terry and Paula! I have sold five non-fiction biographies. I love writing about people who made a positive difference in the world. I do agree that the challenge is to get inside the person I’m writing about and feeling the emotional journey. That usually takes many revisions. Many many revisions. But so worth it when you finally get there. And they do take so much time to do. Which is probably why I’ve been writing lighthearted manuscripts that make me laugh this week — much faster (even if, for me, they may not go anywhere). One of them was about my cat Toby and speaking of Toby, thank you, Terry, for letting me know I’m not the only one to kiss my cat on his lips. I would love to read your story about that! Thank you for the great blog post. I love the words you use to create a scene. You made me feel I was there with you near that volcano.

    • A fellow cat-kisser! >^..^< Thanks, Nancy. And congratulations on selling FIVE biographies! That's tremendous! I think it's great that you're balancing the NF with some lighthearted mss. It seems that switching the brain up like that is a good thing, at least it has been for me. I'm always working on multiple projects but writing shorter, lighter work is what seems to feed my writing soul.

  27. WOW, TERRY!!!: I learned SO MUCH from you today! I especially LOVE your wisdom about the true nature of picture books being “. . . a work of fine art. The balance of the text and the illustrations make a unique art form that, when combined with an adult reader and a child listener, creates nothing short of magic.” BEAUTIFUL! I am writing this down where I can see it to inspire me EVERY DAY TO CREATE SOME MAGIC OF MY OWN ON THE PAGE! THANK YOU!

    PAULA: LOVING YOUR DESK! As to which genre I love to write the most: I think my true love must be historical fiction; a mix of both worlds to bring history to life for children–and for me!

    As to my book for day 4: I was able to write for a few hours this morning, and ALMOST finished the story. I had a GREAT start. But, like the rest of this week, today was CRAZY! EVERYTHING seems to fall during a week like this that demands SO MUCH dedication. I think just sticking with it every day the best we can is what it’s all about. Today I ended up having to have a minor procedure, so it kind of KABASHED the rest of the day. Still, after writing this post, I plan to pick up where I left off–and continue to the end of the week!!! GO NAPIBOWRIWEE WARRIORS!!!!

    • NO, I Didn’t turn into a pumpkin after all; I FINISHED MY DAY 4 STORY RIGHT AS THE CLOCK STRUCK MIDNIGHT! SO PROUD OF MYSELF!!!

    • Ohhh, thank you for that comment, Natalie. Though my day has just started, you’ve made my day and I’ll carry your words with me for some time. 🙂

  28. Terry, thank you for your encouragement to keep persisting, to fight through the pit of despair, and rely on fellow writers is very helpful. It can be too easy to get discouraged in such a subjective business. I love your new book and your insight in to board books.
    Paula, I write more fiction, but I have a fair number of nonfiction in the works as well. I appreciate this challenge and the posts that accompany it. Thank you so very much.

    • Thank you, Maria. Yes, persist. Because you just don’t know when that “YES” will come. But if you give up, you know it never will. Good luck with your writing!

  29. Hi everyone! Thanks for the kind comments about my writing desk! And I’m thrilled you all enjoyed Terry Pierce’s interview! Thank you Terry for also taking time out of your busy schedule to interact with everyone via the comments/replies. I had a good day – busy at work but got home early so I could work on a non-fiction picture book based on research I had already done for a middle grade novel and realized a small slice of it could be turned into a separate stand-alone picture book. Again, the draft is TERRIBLE and full of holes, and honestly, feels more like a glorified outline, but it’s better than nothing! I’m glad the weekend is coming up so we can all hopefully a little bit more time to get some writing done because the Big Push is happening – we’re in the final days and this is when burnout and exhaustion happen. Don’t give up! Hang in there! And stay tuned for our Day 5 Blog posting at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST with a Q&A with Emma Otheguy! 🙂 Okay I’m off to sleep… zzzzz… 🙂 xo P.

    • Paula, I love hearing about everyone;s lousy first drafts (I’m raising my fist in solidarity for those who are willing to write a lousy first draft ;-)). After four rough drafts this week, I’m finding it hard not to go back and start revising the two stories I like and think have potential! But I’ll stay on track and keep writing a different one per day. This week has been a great reminder that no matter how busy, I should always be able to find some time to get a first draft down. Thank you!

  30. I write mostly fiction but have been excited by two non-fiction ideas recently. I am gradually researching the huge fields.
    Thanks, Terry, for great insights and reading ideas. I’m trying to locate your books now.

  31. Thank you, everyone, for your lovely and thoughtful comments. They have me walking a few inches above the ground 🙂 And happy writing (and revising, next week!).

  32. Thank you both for sharing, I love hearing all the different publication stories – the cat article is a hoot, we all have to start somewhere! I’m a bit bummed because I’ve only managed 2 manuscripts so far this week, but I am feeling reinvigorated after reading 🙂

    • Keep at it, Michele. Family plans took me away this weekend, but I’m still going to finish my goal of seven mss, continuing to write today and tomorrow 🙂

  33. Another fantastic post! Thank you! I am walking away with these two nuggets of wisdom (One from Paula and one from Terry) although both posts were excellent and filled with helpful information.
    Paula: “… you have to dig deeper beyond the basic facts of a person’s life and find the emotional heart of their journey and what inspired them to change our world for the better.”
    Terry: “Writing with a sparse text that is filled with luscious language. Having to ‘think visually’ as I write to ensure that I leave room for the illustrator to do his/her job.”

    I write fiction, nonfiction and books that are fiction with nonfiction elements. I finished Day 4’s draft (okay, so I finished it this morning and it is ROUGH!)

  34. So far I have written mostly fiction. Some of my writing is solidly built on my knowledge of reptiles. In one critique session a fellow writer suggested writing a nonfiction text that pairs with the fiction text, or adding strong back matter. I haven’t tried either yet, but maybe I’ve just found the book I’ll quick draft tomorrow!

  35. Thanks Terry and Paula for this inspiring post. I write mostly fiction but have started researching for some NF. I also like fiction with NF elements- 2 of my drafts are like this (one about Pluto, one about beetles!)

  36. Love this post, Terry. So inspiring!
    I write a mixture of NF and fiction – I love biographies and historical fiction particularly. My day 4 draft is a biography!

  37. Thanks for this great post Terry and congratulations on your newest books. I love that you stopped on a trail while hiking to write down your idea. Good advice to always carry pencil and paper.

    • Hi Claire! (it’s lovely seeing an old friend). Yes, it’s always a good idea to have a pen and waterproof writing journal for the trail. I actually drew much inspiration for my novel (not yet published) from my journals hiking in the Sierra many years ago.