Meet children’s book author Andrea J. Loney!
BUNNYBEAR By Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldaña (Albert Whitman & Co. 2017)
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! *Winner of the 2014 Lee & Low New Voices Award) by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett (Lee & Low, July 2017)





Is anyone still here? 🙂

Can you believe it? For five days straight, you guys all wrote 5 picture books in 5 days. OR YOU WROTE AT LEAST ONE WHOLE PICTURE BOOK BY NOW.

OR… you at least tried to write every single day.

Whatever the case, I cannot say how proud I am of everyone.

The whole point of my silly writing event was simply to encourage everyone to write every single day. At the end of the day, of course I hope we all write 7 picture books in 7 days.

But I also completely understand if we only write a few picture books, let alone one, in these 7 days. The whole point is that … YOU ARE WRITING EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I’ve been writing professionally ever since I graduated from college. That’s (gulp) 26 years of writing. (I’m college class of ’91. Vintage Gen Xer here. LOL!) The one thing I have learned over these 2.5 decades is that if you write every day, you develop a thick skin and the ability to self-edit yourself because you are doing this every. single. day. 🙂

I hope this writing week exercise has helped everyone so far!

So what did I do for Day 5? For the past five days, I have been reviewing the research I did over the past year for some picture book biographies and writing a few outlines to turn them into rough rough rough “vomit drafts.” So far, I have successfully written 3 non-fiction picture books and one fun almost word-less “puzzle” type book.

Today, I did a lot more research on a new topic that I accidentally stumbled upon during Day 4. But I realized I needed more time to absorb the facts that I was learning. So I plan I to write the draft of this new non-fiction picture book TODAY (i.e. Day 6 – Saturday 5/6/17).

But for Day 5, I still wanted to write a picture book. And then I remembered how on Thursday night, I watched one of my all time favorite foodie shows… MASTER CHEF JUNIOR.

Coincidentally, my dear college friend’s son is on this show! And he’s still on it! His name is Adam. He is a talented, smart and a sweet, compassionate teen! If you want to find out more about him, go here: http://m.sfgate.com/tv/article/Sacramento-teen-in-final-rounds-of-competition-on-11122804.php GO ADAM!!!!! 🙂

So because I’m a foodie and a Master Chef Junior fan (AND a fan of my friend’s son Adam!), I decided to write a picture book about a chef. And I realized… we have three cats. Oreo, Beethoven & Charlotte. And every time we cook in the kitchen, Beethoven jumps up on the kitchen counter and sits there and watches us as we cook. Caveat: We have to shoo him off the counter and of course clean the counter! Safety first! 🙂

We joke about how Beethoven is secret a Master Chef trapped in the body of a cat, hence his intense curiosity every time we cook dinner. (Below is a pic of me dressing my three cats Oreo Beethoven & Charlotte up as Top Chefs for a past Halloween! LOL!)

So that was my Book 5 draft for May 5th – a picture book poem about a cat who loves to cook!

As for how I have been writing my picture books all week, I have been using my Scrivener app. It’s a great writing software program that I have bragged about before – it’s especially great for nonfiction projects because you can organize all these folders within the document itself.

Many of you who have done NAPIBOWRIWEE before have heard me rave about Scrivener. But I’m mentioning this app again because the the company FINALLY developed an iOS version last year where you can sync your Scrivener app on your iPhone and iPad! So now I can write ANYWHERE with ANY device! I’ve even written at bars on my iPhone using this app! 🙂 LOL!

For more info on Scrivener, go here: http://www.literatureandlatte.com

And now without further ado… it’s time to meet the AWESOME ANDREA J. LONEY, our final Guest Author for 2017 NAPIBOWRIWEE!



BIO: Andrea J Loney’s first published picture book is BUNNYBEAR, (Albert Whitman & Company, January 2017), the story of a bear who believes in his heart that he is a bunny. Her upcoming debut picture book, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low Books, Summer 2017), is the 2014 New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance, and her third picture book DOUBLE BASS BLUES (Random House Knopf, 2019) shares the adventures of a young black boy carrying his double bass home from school. A community college instructor with an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, Andrea also volunteers for We Need Diverse Books. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her devoted family, embarrassingly spoiled pets, and towering stacks of picture books.

PUBLICATION INFO: TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low Books, Summer 2017) – the 2014 New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance.

BUNNYBEAR (illustrated by Carmen Saldaña, Albert Whitman & Company, January 2017) – the story of a bear who believes in his heart that he is a bunny.

DOUBLE BASS BLUES (illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, Knopf Spring 2019) – Double Bass Blues is a picture book celebrating music and family in which a black boy shoulders his beloved double bass from his suburban school to his city neighborhood.


— What inspired you to write or illustrate picture books?

My love of picture books began back when I was in elementary school. While I loved reading all kinds of books including novels, chapter books, comics, history and science texts, plays, poetry, and more, I was always drawn to picture books. I remember deciding in the second grade that when I grew up, I would create the kind of picture books that I wanted to read. I even wrote and drew little stories to entertain myself. Over time I stopped drawing but I continued to write. And I always wanted to publish a picture book someday. And then someday happened!

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

Over the years I have been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter for movies, and a scriptwriter for television. I was even a stand-up comedian for a few years. But right now picture books are my passion.

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

Picture book writing combines so many of my favorite genres – the structure of scriptwriting, the wordplay of poetry, the emotion and dramatic tension of theater, and the dazzling spectacle of film. And then there’s the thrill of watching the artwork dance with the words across the pages. And the joy of putting on a performance while sharing the book with a child. Picture books still feel as magical to me now as they did when I was little.

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

For me, the most challenging part about writing picture books is bridging the gap between my vision of the book and the reality of the actual text scribbled on my notepad. I want each book I write to feel like a love letter from my heart to the reader’s heart. However, many of my stories start out like a pile of puzzle pieces need to be found, sorted, and rearranged until all the right words line up in the right order to just the right effect. If just one piece to pops out of place, the story collapses. Fortunately, I love solving puzzles, so it’s my favorite kind of challenge.

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

Although Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee was my first sold book, Bunnybear is my first published book. I first got the idea while I was in a café with a friend, brainstorming silly ideas. But the idea of a bear who believes that he is a bunny – the more I thought about it, the more I thought about all of the people I knew who seemed one way on the outside and another way on the inside. I thought about friends who were rejected by society and even by their own families, just for being their own authentic selves. I thought about my own experiences of being alone and misunderstood. And then I wrote the story that I would have wanted to hear and see if I were a child going through something similar.

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

I tend to think about story ideas for a very long time before I start writing them. I got the idea for Bunnybear in December 2013, but I didn’t actually write it down until October 2014. Then I took it to a few different critique groups for revisions, and I finally started submitting it to agents in March 2015.

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

I am a night owl, so the best place for me to write is someplace quiet, dark, and cozy. However, I’ve always found ways to write almost anywhere throughout the day – in a coffee shop, at my desk between classes, in my car, etc. Even during walks I sometimes compose stories out loud and recite them to myself – but I wear headphones so other people think I’m just ranting on the phone and not having some sort of a psychiatric episode.

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

As a little girl, I imagined that I would grow up to be a doctor like the famous Puerto Rican poet William Carlos Williams, who wrote poetry on his prescription pad between patient visits. Unfortunately, I never overcame my aversion to germs and ickiness, so no medical career for me. — Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know. I have a pair of adult-sized light up fairy wings and I am not afraid to use them.

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

Have fun! Set an intention to quickly blast out a story, enjoy the ride, and see what happens. Delight in the joy of creation and worry about the process of revision some other week. No one is expecting you to draft an award-winning polished final draft in 24 hours (but if you do, that’s just a bonus, right?), so take the pressure off and just see what flows.

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

I think that every child deserves to be the hero of the story. I also think that many of us usually do not think of ourselves as “diverse” — we just see ourselves as people living lives that are as fascinating, compelling, and important as anyone else’s. And I think that when even more stories are published about an even wider variety of cultures, our entire society will benefit as a whole. Lastly, I am so very grateful for publishers like Lee & Low Books and their steadfast commitment to diversity in children’s literature.

— 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”?

I can be found at: My website: andreajloney.com Twitter: @andreajloney  Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andreajloney/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/AndreaJLoney/ And Facebook: Author, AndreaJLoney 

Social media has been very helpful in my writing career – so many opportunities have come to me just by someone looking me up online and contacting me. Or by me reaching out to someone on Twitter or Facebook. In my opinion, all writers who want to be “findable” by an agent or publisher need at least a website and a Twitter account. It’s super easy to get sucked into a social media vortex and lose time that could be better spent on your writing. But just maintaining your own little part of the internet with an updated website and a few daily posts or reposts is all that’s necessary to show that you are a part of the kid lit community. And the kid lit community is awesome! Come play with us!


Standing ovation for the Awesome Andrea J. Loney for taking time to answer our questions! You are an inspiration to our aspiring picture book writers and NAPIBOWRIWEE community! Special thanks to Andrea for generously donating autographed copies of her books for our lucky winners chosen at random at our drawing! Contest winners announced on May 8, 2017!

My Day 6 question for everyone – since I mentioned Scrivener was my favorite go-to writing app… what writing programs/software do you guys use when you write? I’m curious to hear more! Do you use the laptop, the standard MS Word, or other exotic software, or just an old-school pen and paper? 🙂

Good luck to everyone who has survived five whole days of writing and are about to embark on Day 6! Hang in there, only two more days left! Remember to post your comments below about your experience. Stay tuned for our May 7th wrap up blog tomorrow (posting at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST)! Until then, HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂


  1. I love Bunny Bear, Andrea. I chuckle every time I think of the storyline. It was interesting to hear how you think about an idea before committing it to the computer. I laughed at your comment about the headphones! I am always playing with ideas in the car on my two hour drive to work (fortunately, there is very little traffic!) The only downfall is if I really get an idea I like I have to pull over and jot some notes. I always set aside extra time to get there just in case!
    As for apps etc I use for writing, Paula, I rely on getting a start down in my notebook. Then when I have done what I can there, I commit to tying on my desktop or laptop using Word. BTW I am 4 for 4 with story 5 in the cue for today.

  2. Awesome Andrea, indeed. I like seeing into your process for the creation of Bunny Bear. Waiting in anticipation for the others!
    Paula, I have been trading off this week w/writing implements: some days pen and yellow legal pads, some days Macbook Air & Word. For NF research, I like Evernote, but I am curious about Scrivener.

  3. Day 6 and I’m still committed! I’m truly amazed at my perseverance in attempting to fulfill this challenge. I’m slacking on my other obligations, but it’s been worth it! I absolutely have 6 MS’s–in different stages of completion–but I’m happy with the mini portfolio I now can mold and edit and share with my critique groups. It’s also providing material for my 12×12 challenge as well.

  4. Despite the fact that I look much younger than I am, I did not grow up working on computers. Therefore, I am an avid lover of yellow legal pads with blue pens – it’s just a winning combination! For the sake of time and progress I have been trying to train myself to directly type a story 🙂 Like Andrea, I typically mull a story over in the back of my mind for months on end – it is nice to hear I am not the only one! By the time I write the story idea down, it is more like a 10th draft!

  5. Andrea, we are fellow Albert Whitman writers and I love Bunny Bear. Such an important message that we can all relate to in different ways. Your other books sound wonderful, too, and I look forward to reading them. Paula, I do a mix of laptop with Word and pen and paper. Usually my brainstorm breakthroughs on how to tell the story are on pen and paper. I type much faster than I write and also the advantage of typing is that I can read what I’ve written (sometimes I have to do a lot of squinting at my handwriting to decipher it if I let it sit for too long). And I love the laptop for revising. So easy. So fast. So soothing when you need at least the illusion that you are making progress…

  6. Who doesn’t fall in love with BunnyBear in just one glance at the cover? Such a fantabulous story Andrea!

    I’m old school with a legal pad, thenwith Post It notes to dummy and organize scenes and page turns. Finally the computer when it shows enough promise to need looking more like a “real” manuscript!

    Trying for 2 today so I can use Day 7 for review and revise…

  7. Thanks so much for sharing with us, Andrea! I love this line: “I want each book I write to feel like a love letter from my heart to the reader’s heart.” Beautiful. I can’t wait to read your books! Paula, I alternate between writing on a regular desktop computer on home, on a chromebook when I’m writing at my neighborhood Dunkin’ Donuts, and with a good old composition book and gel pen!

    I’m having so much fun this year with NaPiBoWriWee! On some days, I’m not sure that I’m actually writing picture books. This morning (as I sit at Dunkin’ with my chromobook and a cup of half-caf coconut flavored coffee) I’m writing what seems like the beginning of a chapter book, but I wouldn’t have thought of the idea without NaPiBoWriWee! Thank you!

  8. After seeing Andrea’s post on the 12×12 blog, I checked out BUNNYBEAR and loved it. I can’t wait for BASS! I also love this quote about why picture books are such a powerful medium: “Picture book writing combines so many of my favorite genres – the structure of scriptwriting, the wordplay of poetry, the emotion and dramatic tension of theater, and the dazzling spectacle of film. ”

    I’m longing for Scrivener, since I tend to be a scribbler with a variety of ideas stashed in a bunch of different places! But I need a new laptop first 🙁 Right now I tend to need to start with a bunch of ideas pulled into a handwritten draft, especially since I write on the fly a lot. Then I type it out, which helps me spot places that need revision.

  9. Wonderful interview . I love Bunnybear! It is indeed a love letter from Andrea’s heart to her reader. I’ve tried Scrivener once, steep learning curve & limited time. So I guess I need to try again soon. I’ve got 4 drafts and am trying for 2 today. Thanks Paula for the daily encouragement and amazing interviews.

  10. I love pen & paper for brainstorming, but when I start writing a story I need my laptop. My fingers typing can keep up with the flow of words… if I try to write it out it’s chicken scratch. Good luck to everyone on day 6 & 7!

  11. Great interview – I haven’t read Bunnybear yet but I’m looking forward to reading it soon.
    I enjoy my notebook for writing prompts but I generally use Google Docs. I keep hearing great things about Scrivener though so I need to check it out.

  12. Thanks for sharing! I like the title, DOUBLE BASS BLUES. And the concept of BUNNYBEAR.
    Thus far I’ve written 3 first drafts and rewritten a PB. I plan to scribble out another draft today and 2 tomorrow.
    I use Word doc on my MacBook to write and keep research notes. I bought a $20 version of Scrivener, but haven’t warmed up to it yet.

  13. The concept of Bunnybear is beautiful, and I’ve added both books to my TBR list!

    I type up my stuff in Word on my laptop, but most of my poetry or first drafts of children’s books or stories start out written with pen or pencil in a journal or (if I’m at work) on a sticky note.

  14. Yes, I’m still here, Paula. Thanks for NaPiBoWriWeek! I’m 6 for 6! I’ve been doing my writing even before getting out of bed for the day (unusual for me, usually I grab writing minutes here and there throughout the day) with pen and paper. I participated in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm in January, so had all these ideas just pining away. I’m thrilled to have this challenge to put the ideas into stories. Currently, I’ve two drafts that I will revise and continue to work on. 🙂 Thank you! Thank you!

  15. Thank you Andrea for an inspiring post. I love the sound of Double Bass Blues – can’t wait to read that one.
    Paula, I’m a Scrivener fan too. After 9 months of writing I started to panic when I had loads of partial drafts and notes and collections of research and PiBoIdMo ideas all over the place (notebooks, Word, Pages, Notes, phone notes, voice recordings, paper). Also different ms versions that were in folders and emailed to myself and posted to critique groups and printed out to scribble on. I moved all of them (96 titles, it turned out!) to Scrivener for iOS, and I’m calmer now. Most will never turn into polished drafts, but I know where they all are and can re-visit whenever I like. I still store transcribed picture books and writing-craft stuff in Pages, and use a sticky-note board for dummying manuscripts, but I quickly move everything else to Scrivener and love it. Especially now I’ve started submitting, so all the pitches and queries can be kept up together with the manuscript.

  16. Thank you, Andrea–so inspired! I can’t wait to read your books. Regarding the question of writing software, looking at the responses eagerly. Trying software is on my to-do list, but yeah, it was a major concession switching from longhand to typing.

  17. I love how you describe picture books as a combination of your favorite genres. That struck at chord with me. (And Bunnybear is a favorite in my house, BTW!)
    I prefer Word for picture books, Scrivener for research-based & chapter books, and poster paper for word webs when I’m finding my ideas.
    Day 6, Draft 6. Check!

  18. Andrea – thank you for writing in a way that is a “love letter from my heart to the reader’s heart.” So inspiring!
    Paula, thanks for this great opportunity. I usually rethink everything way too much and it is so freeing to just push ahead and write. Even if only one manuscript from this week shows promise I will be thrilled.
    I write with pen and paper and then head to my computer. Thanks for the suggestion regarding Scrivener. I will check it out – just not until Monday.

  19. Still hanging in there Paula — and thanks for the cheering-on, Andrea! Finished both #4 (pretty good ) and #5 (a bit thin) yesterday, and am halfway through #6 tonight.
    Paula: you and your cats have to check out Mike Marlbrough’s upcoming debut PB — MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE — out July 18 (https://www.amazon.com/Marigold-Bakes-Cake-Mike-Malbrough/dp/1524737380/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494122305&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=mike+marlbrough+marigold). It is RIGHT up your alley!
    I’ve been teetering on the Scrivener brink for months now, and have promised myself to take the dive in July when I have a couple of KIDLESS weeks for the first time ever (eek!) and will have time to log some serious writing hours on a MG project I’ve been brewing. Until then I slog along with MS Word…

  20. No kidding about the standup comedian gig — I was totally laughing at the “psychiatric episode” remark. Loved loved loved Andrea’s recognition of the characteristics of children’s picture books (“… the structure of scriptwriting, the wordplay of poetry…”), as if someone put into words something I didn’t even acknowledge, yet. (Aside: I remember Andrea being featured in 12×12!)
    Paula, for the past year & 1/2, I’ve used Google Docs, mainly writing on my smart phone because it’s so transportable & with me most of the time… plus, I can pull up the same file on any computer, if I’m so inclined. But from the first day of this challenge, I’ve been writing mostly with pen & paper (& then saving a clean copy in Docs), and I’ve been doodling with each story, which is also a habit I should get into–drawing every day!
    Draft #6 came late, but easily today. Whew!

  21. Just a quick checkin no writing today 🙁 just got off a 16+ hour shift… I prefer writing my drafts with pen and paper… one of these days I’ll try it with quill and ink! ??

  22. Thank you, Andrea for a great interview.

    I write best with my green mechanical pencil and paper. My purple mechanical pencil just doesn’t have the same talent for producing good material.

  23. Thanks Andrea, you’re funny and knowledgeable. A great mix.
    Paula, I write using a pen and paper mostly, any of both I can find at the time, then move to Pages on my iPad, sometimes when I’m inspired I skip the pen and paper and go straight to Pages.

  24. ANDREA: I LOVE how you pointed out the different genres that encompass picture book writing. I never really thought of all of these different aspects. TRULY INSPIRING!!!

    PAULA, as to what I use for my writing: I use my HP laptop every single day. I also use my email account to keep my book ideas in one place, so they are easy for me to access and add to at any time. I still LOVE the feel, sound, and comfort of pen on paper, though!

    As to my writing today: It was YET ANOTHER tough, busy day, so I am only just getting to my manuscript. *SIGH* But I SHALL CONQUER!!!! I might not be able to write it in the 25 minutes left before midnight, but I SHALL CONQUER, NONETHELESS!!!!! GO NAPIBOWRIWEE WARRIORS!!!

  25. Andrea – so wonderful to hear about your process, journey, and thanks for the advice 🙂 I absolutely <3 Bunnybear and look forward to reading your other books as well – congrats!

    As for the challenge – Paula, this has been such a great experience, thank you! I use a combo of old school paper/notebook & pen for ideas, laptop to write, and have a monster google doc for research, storylines, and more.

  26. Loved this interview with Andrea! I need to get Bunnybear for my kids, they love books like this 🙂
    As for writing, I use Pages on my Mac and the note app on my iPhone, but I’m getting Scrivener for my laptop so I can organize my writing into something decipherable because right now I have random notes everywhere in paper form and electronic form. I hope I can get organized with Scrivener, I’ve heard really good things about it from other writers.
    I’ve written 3 drafts this week and I’m feeling so excited to write more! Thank you for organizing this!

  27. Thanks for another inspiring post, it’s great to hear about the length of time your ideas stew. Day 6 found me tackling a story I’d vaguely started a few months ago, but never completed … but by the end of the day it had become a fully formed first draft! I am a pen and paper girl when out and about, but use Pages on my MAC the rest of the time. Have even been known to email myself with ideas! Roll on Day 7!

  28. Hi! Thanks everyone for your comments and answering my question about how you write with either software or pen/paper. I was just curious as to how everyone writes. I might try some of your writing methods, too! 🙂 And grateful thanks again to Andrea J. Loney for her Q&A! For my Day 6, I wrote another cat picture book (LOL big surprise there ha!). Stay tuned for my Day 6 Recap details in tomorrow’s blog. Our Day 7 blog posts at 9 AM EST/6 AM PST and features a surprise success story from one of our own NAPIBOWRIWEE participants! Congrats everyone for surviving Day 6. We have one more day left… AND WE ARE GOING TO ROCK THIS DAY 7. GET READY!!!!!! 🙂 xo P.

  29. Yaaaaaay! Thanks everyone for your kind words on my post and on Bunnybear. I’m so glad to hear that people are enjoying it.

    And how do I write? Everything seems to start on a series of Post-It notes, scribed with a Pilot G-2 0.38 black pen. Then it gets scribbled into a notebook. Eventually it all ends up in Microsoft Word.

    I don’t use Scrivener for picture books, but it is an amaaaaaazing program if you are working with lots of research materials, character info, images, and bits and pieces. I’ve written two books using the program during NaNoWriMo and I highly recommend sitting through the tutorials and trying it out.

    Oh, and I also use OneNote to compile online and in-person research for individual books and projects.

    Thanks again, everyone! And hope you’re having a great NaPiBoWriWee!

  30. Thanks for a great interview, Andrea. Thanks for sharing the backstory for Bunnybear. And I love your puzzle analogy. Looking forward to reading your upcoming book! And thank you to Paula for another terrific day in a fabulous week!

  31. I try to be paperless but my I Pad and phone are never far off and it all gets sent to my PC for tidying in Word.
    Thanks for the interview! Love Bear who tries to be what he is not!

  32. Great interview, Andrea. Thank you for giving us a peek into your process for creating Bunny Bear. I love the idea of a bear believing that he is a bunny and can’t wait for the book to get here.

    As for apps I use for writing I don’t have any, I just use Word on my desktop. I very seldom write in longhand unless I want to sit outside on the patio and try to work out a problem then it’s a yellow pad and pen. The only problem with pen and paper is that I’m a doodler and will have the majority of paper filled with doodles and the words tucked over, under and around the doodles

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