Simply 7 interview with Marsha Diane Arnold–“Waiting for Snow”

The time for waiting is up!  ONE of the promised interviews is here.  And interestingly enough, it is for a book all about waiting: “Waiting for Snow.”  I fell absolutely in love with this cute little book (and it IS little–not your average picture book size, but somewhere between a regular picture book and a board book).

For the past few weeks, I’ve had a student DYING to know if it was his birthday yet.  And even though I told him repeatedly that it wasn’t for a few weeks, a few more days, etc. and we marked it on the calendar together so he could see when the day would come, he could NOT stop asking about it.  Waiting is SO hard when you are young (though does it really ever get any easier?!).

“Waiting for Snow” is all about an impatient Badger who is wants it to snow now.  NOT later, but NOW.  He is done with waiting, so he’s going to make it happen himself.  We adults can laugh at the futility of such efforts, knowing in advance the end results (and maybe kids can too), but haven’t we been there?  Haven’t we all gotten sick and tired of waiting so long for something to happen that we had to take action ourselves in some way (waiting for jobs, waiting for true love, waiting for inspiration, etc.)?

And see, I wax philosophical already!  It’s hard not to do with a book like this.  Especially with the Yoda-like Hedgehog character in this story (who is just a sweetie!).  He is so calm and patient.  But I digress.

Marsha Diane Arnold is a multi-award-winning picture book author, with over one million books sold. The media has called her a “born storyteller.” Her newest book, Waiting for Snow, illustrated by Renata Liwska, was released November 1st.

Her first book Heart of a Tiger won the Ridgway Award for Best First Book by a New Author. Other awards include Smithsonian Notable Book for The Pumpkin Runner, Dolly Parton Imagination selection for Roar of A Snore, and Junior Library Guild Selection for her recent three starred-reviewed Lost. Found. 

She even teaches a popular class (Writing Character-Driven Picture Books) through the Children’s Book Academy!  You can learn more about her at her website.

Thanks for coming to visit today Marsha!

Thanks so much for inviting me to “chat” with you on your blog.

Me: What draws you to creating picture books?

Marsha: Regarding what draws me to picture books, I’ve always felt that the best picture books gather the essence of a universal truth into one beautiful, small package. Then that package is presented as a gift to our precious children. What could be better than that? I am drawn.

Me: I know “Heart of a Tiger” was your first picture book, but how did you get started as a writer? What made you start writing your column “homegrown treasures”? What made you want to take a leap into writing books for kids?

heart

Marsha: When my second child was born, I became a stay-at-home Mom. I loved being at home, surrounded by my children and their friends – their energy, escapades, and joy. I just had to write about it! So I started writing homegrown treasures which was enthusiastically received by my readers and which won a California Newspaper Publishers award three times.

Actually, many of my readers shared with me that they read my columns together as a family – grandparents, parents, teens, and children. So in a way, I guess I was always writing for children. My readers’ admiration and the awards encouraged me to continue writing, first for kids’ magazines and then picture books. I always knew picture books were where my heart was. They were always my goal, and when Heart of a Tiger was published, it was the beginning of a wonderful path, sprinkled with picture books.

Me: I loved “Lost. Found.” as well as “Waiting for Snow.” Both take place in winter. Is winter your favorite season? Both also have animal characters. Are you more drawn to them than to human characters?

Marsha: I’m delighted you love Lost. Found. and Waiting for Snow.

Yes, I seem to have been in a wintry mindset during that period of time. I actually enjoy all the seasons. I guess you could say that from a distance, winter is my favorite. Perhaps for a few days, gazing out at new-fallen snow beside a warm fire, as I’ve done at my son’s house in Connecticut. Or taking a short walk in frosty crunchiness with winter birds singing above. It’s so beautiful. But for any length of time, give me spring any day.

Animal characters do draw me more than human characters. A few of my books like The Pumpkin Runner star humans, but I like using animals as characters because all children, no matter what color or size or shape, can easily relate to them. Also, ever since I was a child, I’ve actually been more comfortable with animals than humans. That must bridge over to my being more comfortable with animal characters in my books.

Me: I understand that “Waiting for Snow” was a dream project for you, with an editor (i.e., Kate O’Sullivan) and illustrator you’d been waiting years to work with (i.e., Renata Liwska). Did the dream live up to the reality? Are you pleased with the final book?

Marsha: Actually, I hadn’t really been waiting for years to work with Kate and Renata. I would have never presumed that. It was a small dream tucked in the corner of my heart that I never thought would happen. Then my agent called to tell me Kate had made an offer on Waiting For Snow. I caught my breath. Too wonderful to believe! After the contract was negotiated, Kate shared that she hoped Renata would illustrate. But Renata was especially busy. We thought for a while it wouldn’t happen. But in the end, it did!

So the dream tucked in a corner of my heart became reality. What could be better? I will treasure Waiting for Snow forever. I hope many others treasure it too.

Me: You’ve commented about a couple of other stories involving Badger (a second involving searching for sunshine and a third about seeds). Are those sequels you’ve already sold? Can we expect more Badger and friends stories?

Marsha: My other two Badger stories have yet to be sold. My agent absolutely adores the one about Badger and seeds and is submitting it now. Time will tell. I’ll probably say good-bye to Badger for a while as I have lots of other characters calling me to tell their stories.

Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?

Marsha: Nothing really surprised me while I was writing Waiting for Snow. However, surprises do sometimes come after a manuscript has been bought and the editing begins.

I’ve always been happy with my illustrators’ interpretations of my stories, but I am also often surprised by one or two of their interpretations. As I’ve said, I was especially thrilled to have Renata Liwska say “yes” to illustrating Waiting for Snow. She is such a talent. It was Renata who decided Hedgehog would be shown with a projector to explain weather patterns and be in a classroom setting. I hadn’t imagined the images that way. It was a surprise, but a brilliant surprise I was most pleased with. 6a6b

Me: Any advice for new picture book writers and/or illustrators?

Marsha: My practical advice has been the same for a long time. They are things like reading about the history of children’s literature and all the best books from the past to the present, researching the business of writing, joining SCBWI, and having patience, like Badger in Waiting for Snow.7b

Above the practical, writing for children is a sacred profession. We are writing for millions of children who look to our books for entertainment, for nurture, and for inspiration. Enter with respect and reverence. Listen to the beauty and the love around you. Then write in joy.

Write in joy.  I love that.  I’ve said it, some of my favorite writers have said it, and I find it keeps coming back to me on the waves of wisdom.  Write with joy, draw with joy, do it all with the bliss we had in childhood (per something Peter H. Reynolds said in a webinar recently).  Just enjoy yourself, my friends.  Why make the journey arduous?  Enjoy it.  Success will come in its time, just like the snow. 7a

Thank you so much Marsha for stopping by.  And dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to check out “Waiting for Snow,” then don’t wait any longer.  It’s a quiet treasure, a unique and clever story.  Go find it and read it today.  You won’t regret it.

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

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