Happy Saturday, Reading Nook!
Today, we're sharing a lovely Q&A with Rebecca Van Slyke, Priscilla Burris, the author and illustrator for the incredibly fun Mom School.
They're an incredibly funny duo, and we think that you'll enjoy their answers, and also think that their fantastic book is also a perfect gift for Mother's Day!
Q&A with Rebecca Van Slyke
Q: First things first: Could you share just what inspired by the creation of Mom School? Was any of the story inspired by your own family, and/or your current work as a teacher?
(I have to say - I know a lot of moms who love your book, and would love to know the inspiration for the book as well!)
Q: Mom School is wonderful from beginning to end, but is there a specific part of the story that you’d especially like to share or point out to readers?
But my absolute favorite thing about the book are Priscilla Burris's illustrations. Check out the one where the moms are practicing going on scary rides at the fair. You have to work up to things like that!
Q: You’ve written fantastic and introspective posts on your publishing journey, including sage advice on the importance of being patient, and continuing to grow in one’s craft.
Now that your book has officially debuted, how has your perspective changed on your publishing journey? And what advice would you offer for those who are also waiting to enjoy their post-debut euphoria?
My advice for writers and illustrators who are still waiting to get The Call from a publisher? Surround yourself with all the wonderful people who write and illustrate for children. Seriously, you'll never find nicer people who are rooting for you to succeed and willing to help you along the way. Join the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), go to conferences and classes, ask questions in online groups, find a critique group who will look at your work and tell you (kindly, yet honestly) what works and what doesn't in your story, read LOTS of great books, and write, write, write! And don't give up. Discouragement is part of the process, but... Don't. Give. Up. Currently I have 66 rejection letters that I've collected on various manuscripts in the past three years. But the rejections are getting better, which tells me that my writing is improving. So here we are again, back to being patient and improving your work.
Q: And what’s next for you?
It's a good thing I learned how to do so many things at once at Mom School!
Q: And finally, there’s a bit of a rumor floating around that you have a secret dream to becoming a penguin tamer. (And we approve wholeheartedly - penguins are awesome!)
Could you tell us just what you would want to have those penguins learn to do, if your dreams do come true? And how would you incorporate this into your writing?
Maybe all they need is the right flight manual.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! Now, onto our Q&A with Priscilla, the intrepid illustrator for the book!
Q&A with Priscilla Burris:
Q: First things first: As a fellow OC girl, it’s an honor to meet you! I follow your facebook page, and I love how you’ll occasionally share OC-related inspiration!
Q: So could you share how you and Rebecca first became acquainted with one another?
Q: I’ve always been curious as to how writers and illustrators find each other - I’ve heard stories ranging from online message boards, to agent introductions - so I’d love to hear your experience!
Q: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you have a certain ritual for drawing, and that it became a part of your inspiration for Mom School. But could you share a little more on just how you chose to tailor your style to fit Rebecca’s writing?
Are there specific key scenes and/or ideas from the book that made you think “Ok, this is how I’m going to approach it?”
Rebecca's writing, or 'Voice', is brilliant in that I could hear the child speaking, if that makes sense! We hear from the child's perspective what she imagines ~ and that was like a playground of fun equipment for me to enjoy!
My responsibility is to take the words and move beyond what could just literally be illustrated. I made this note to myself awhile back: "Say It, But Don't Say It".
(And on a related note, I love the color palette that you’ve chosen. It just makes the book feel so cheery!)
Q: I know that writers often have their favorite paragraphs or chapters, and I feel like illustrators must have favorite scenes or pages! Were there any from Mom School that you feel especially proud of?
"…and how to go on scary rides at the fair."
I had so much fun with this part of the story in deciding just how to show Moms 'learning' about this! I love both the gleeful Mom who accomplished her 'scary ride' training, as well as the Mom next in line, with her expression of dread.
"…and how to build forts out of couch cushions."
Oh, to be so carefree as to spend an afternoon building and then relaxing in your own couch cushion fort! The added element of another Mom 'reporting' to their teacher her annoyance in only having one cushion left for her to use was just plain fun.
Q: What was the collaborative process like? Did you meet with Rebecca and send pages back and forth? Or was it more of a full project approach - e.g. did you complete a first draft first, and then review it with Rebecca and editors?
I find each stage to be really enjoyable and a continual learning process for me. There is always room to grow as an illustrator and new things to learn and that is exciting!
Q: Finally, I’m sure you probably get this question a lot, but what inspires your work?
From rememberings and feelings of my childhood - what made an impact, what triggered feelings of belonging, sadness, curiosity, wonderings and wishes - to - my own children, and other children, and what I have and still learn by watching them.
Inspired by the very big things happening all around us to the very tiniest and seemingly 'non-important' happenings.
I’m constantly in awe and delighted over the doodles on your Facebook page, and I often have two thoughts:
a. “These are fantastic!” and
b. Then I wonder just how it is you’re able to create something completely you, but also captures such a warmth and universality to it.
Sometimes characters I've created take on their own life and 'want' to be in on the fun of being posted. Characters can be so bossy - but I love them! =D