2019 NAPIBOWRIWEE DAY 5 – Meet Guest Author Nancy Raines Day!


Nancy Raines Day

Welcome to Day 5 of NAPIBOWRIWEE! Can you believe we are more than half-way done? Congrats to everyone who’s managed to keep up this whole time! 🙂

MY DAY 4 EXPERIENCE: Facebook inspired me! I was a little worried I couldn’t write something because it’s been such a busy week and I was getting burned out, but a nice conversation with one of our participants, Amy Blanchard, on our official Facebook page led to another cat story about a cat trying to find the perfect place to sleep. I used haiku for this poem which led to a nice rhythmic and soothing cadence. Thanks, Amy!

And now we meet today’s special guest author, the lovely Nancy Raines Day!


PUBLICATION INFO: Pirate Jack Gets Dressed, September 18, 2018, Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. SYNOPSIS: In this colorful yarrrn, jaunty Pirate Jack narrates in rhyming pirate talk as he puts on his pirate gear, piece by piece.

Baby’s Firsts, September 4, 2018, Charlesbridge. SYNOPSIS: Celebrate the milestones of the first year with three charming babies and their diverse families.

BIO: Nancy Raines Day is the author of twelve picture books and counting. Her first, The Lion’s Whiskers: An Ethiopian Folktale (Scholastic, 1995), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her latest, Baby’s Firsts (Charlesbridge, 2018), was on both the Bank Street Best Children’s Books and CCBC Choices 2019 lists. She has critiqued picture book texts for SCBWI members for thirteen years. Previously, she was an instructor with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Nancy lives on St. Simons Island in Georgia with her husband.


What inspired you to write picture books?

I loved the picture books my mother read us growing up. We were also lucky to have Mary Ann Hoberman (who recently served as U.S. children’s poet laureate) as a neighbor. That made me realize that writing children’s books was something that regular people could do!

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

I’m a visual thinker, and I’ve always loved paring words down to their essence and pairing them with the visuals I imagine that will complete the story. I also love the surprise and wonder when I see how the illustrator has taken my words and expanded the story in ways I never imagined!

What is the most challenging part about writing/illustrating picture books?

Finding the few, right words needed to tell the story while leaving out what the illustrations can show reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle. Telling the story in rhyme–without sounding stilted or letting what rhymes lead the sense of the story–can be even harder. But the sense of accomplishment once you’ve nailed it is worth the struggle!

Tell us about your first published book – what inspired the idea for the book? Any fun or interesting details about the road to your first book’s publication?

My first published book was The Lion’s Whiskers, my retelling of an Ethiopian folktale about a good stepmother. I was a step grandmother a year before I was a mother, so I was well aware of how uncomfortable reading all the folktales about wicked stepmothers could be. I felt it was time for at least one (the only one, as far as I know) folktale with a stepmother heroine, as stepfamilies were a growing demographic in the 90’s. That was also a time when publishers were seeking non-European folktales and stories with Black characters. This all helped an editor at Scholastic pluck my manuscript out of the slush pile and get the rest of her house enthused about publishing it.

Do you have a favorite picture book or a picture book that most inspires you with its writing and/or art? If so, which one is it and why?

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat has been my lifelong favorite. As a child, I could recite the whole book from memory. (I still can!) I loved the humor, the rhyme, and the idea that you can entertain the wildest fantasies in your imagination whether your mother is home or not. As a parent, I could still read this book over and over–and never get tired of it. Now that, I decided, is writing. It is an inspiration to me to keep writing my own manuscripts over and over until they are just right.

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

I play the marimbula with a local ukelele group.

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

If writing or illustrating is what you feel you were put on this earth to do, hang in there. When I started this journey, I decided 95% of those who start give up before they get published, but I would just keep at it until I reached that goal. Persistence pays!

There’s been a growing demand for more diversity in children’s book publishing for women and people of color either as book subjects/stories/characters or for diverse writers/illustrators. What are your thoughts on that, if any?

It’s high time, and will make children’s literature all the richer for everyone.

There’s been increasing pressure for writers and artists 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/art journey and career? Any advice for writers or artists who might feel overwhelmed by the social media “burden”?

I don’t love social media, but it’s the best way I’ve found to get word out into the world while sitting at my desk. I have an author page on Facebook, Nancy Raines Day. My advice is to only do what you’re comfortable with and can keep up with.


Thank you Nancy Day for answering our questions! I love your “jigsaw puzzle” reference in terms of crafting poetry. And I had no idea you played the marimbula! We’ll have to do a violin/marimbula duet one day! 🙂 Hmmmm… now I have music on the brain. Maybe that will inspire Book #5! Fingers crossed!

For more info on Nancy, visit her here: http://nancyrainesday.com and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nancy-Raines-Day-154888061247961/

Nancy will graciously donate autographed copies of her latest books to our lucky winners in our annual drawing contest! (Winners are chose at random). Winners will be announced on our May 8, 2019 blog, so stay tuned!

Well, at least it’s the weekend! So hopefully some of us have a little bit more time to write! I’m still working on my other book deadlines but hope to squeeze in a little NAPIBOWRIWEE writing time, too! Fingers crossed! Until tomorrow’s blog … HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT!


  1. Thanks, Nancy. I HAVE to read Pirate Jack Gets Dressed. And is that a quilt in your author photograph? Did you make it?

    • I wish I had the quilting talent to have made it! But no, I was at a quilt show. I’ve long been a fan and sometime collector of that art form.

  2. Visual puzzles & Ukelele Groups—lady you were made to write children’s books lol lol You’re proof that this is suppose to be fun (besides the hard work)

    Thanks Much


  3. As of 5/5/19: Wow thank you everyone for your comments on these blogs! And apologies for our little glitch this week where newer comments were not appearing (they were posted, just not actually appearing on the blog itself). We fixed it! I also love everyone’s posts on Twitter & Facebook, too. Thank you! I am sorry I have not been able to personally respond to comments this year because of our computer glitch. I hope to catch up before Day 7, so stay tuned. Until then, I have read all comments and am very inspired by everyone. Thank you! More soon! xo Paula

  4. Nancy, I love how you made the step-mother into a heroine in your book. Being a parent, let alone a step-parent, is hard. I’m sure a lot of step-moms appreciate your book. I will have to check it out. 🙂

    Okay, now off to working on manuscript #5!

  5. Thank you for you post Nancy.
    How wonderful your neighbor was a poet that inspired you. It is always good to be reminded to not give up on our dreams, it it a struggle sometimes.
    Congratulations on your books. I will search for them at the library as part of my PB research I do once a month.

    • Wonderful that you look at PBs on a regular basis, Heather K! Reading tons of them helps you get the form into your head. Time well spent.

  6. Wonderful interview, Nancy, and I know how you feel w/those stepmother stories. Let that stereotype REST.

  7. Visual thinkers!
    I love this description…thank you Nancy, especially for the encouragement to hang in there and not give up on our books and stories.

  8. Great post, Nancy! I am also a visual thinker and really connected with you when you said, “I’ve always loved paring words down to their essence and pairing them with the visuals I imagine that will complete the story.” It’s harder than you think, or for me it is… what I see in my mind’s eye never matches what I write on the page… and your right finding the right words is very much like a jigsaw puzzle.

  9. Thanks for this post! I love what you say about persistence. And I’m planning to read all of your books. They sound fantastic!

  10. Thanks you Nancy! I enjoyed your description of finding the few right words. That’s where the magic happens. This week I’m letting go of the right words in favor of the right bones. Later, with any luck, the right words will shine trough. (for at least one story!) I finished number 5!

  11. I love your advice to keep going. I bet a lot of people do give up, as you say. I’ll remember your words when I’m looking blankly at the screen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  12. Very nice interview, Nancy! I have an interest in folktales, too, but hadn’t known about “The Lion’s Whiskers” — so I put a hold on it at our library just now and am looking forward to it!

  13. NANCY: I SO APPRECIATE your wisdom of knowing a pic book is GREAT if you can read it again and again, without tiring of it. This is something I know I need to keep in mind as I write! THANK YOU!!! My day 5 was still a bit bumpy. It was one of those days when you drop EVERYTHING you touch, and EVERYTHING seems to fall apart–ESPECIALLY yourself!!! It was ONCE AGAIN late into the night when I FINALLY gave in to writing (I think I was mostly afraid to touch my laptop, in case I broke that TOO!). It wasn’t the book I was planning on writing, but one that has been marinating in my brain for more than a few years. It FEELS SO AMAZING to finally see it down on paper!!! YIPPPPEEEE!!! Keep on writin’ on, everybody!!! With each day and story I am reminded: WE CAN DO THIS!!!

  14. My #5 is about my daughter’s first violin recital and bird sound mnemonics so I was picking up the music vibe before I read this post! 😂

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Nancy! I especially loved learning about your experiences with illustrators and how you try to leave space for the artwork.

  16. I love how you view writing as a jigsaw puzzle! I find I put in too many words and have been told to “tighten, tighten, tighten” my writing.

    Having a positive view of step parents is extremely important, I think still to this day that’s a hard transition for kids, scary and still we don’t have enough positive books on step parents.

    I did finally get a draft finished yesterday. I have had this idea in my head that just wouldn’t work every time I started putting words to tell the story it just wouldn’t go but I could visualize it so yesterday I did the taboo and wrote the manuscript as a wordless book…so I wrote all shortened and condensed illustration notes to tell this stormy story I had in my head. Now that it’s out I hope to write a better one on Day 6

  17. Thanks, Nancy for the wonderful post. As I explored further, I happened upon a blog you wrote about rhyming picture books. I loved your advice to write the story in prose first. My problem right now is that some of my day # 5 draft is in prose and some in rhyme. So fun!

  18. Thanks so much for an inspirational post! I agree, writing rhyme is SO hard, but so rewarding! It is totally like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

  19. It’s a testament to your word choice that your illustrators have been inspired to vibrant colors from your words!

  20. Thank you, Nancy for your insights and inspiration. I look forward to reading “Lions Whiskers”

  21. Thanks for sharing, Nancy! It’s wonderful to hear you say that writing children’s books is something that “regular people” can do. 🙂

  22. Paula and Nancy… If that duet happens, please tweet it!
    Didn’t get a draft done on Day 5… I feel pressure to entertain my house guest; in the future, I must either more carefully plan company, or have more independent guests!