It was about this time last year that Miranda Paul stopped by my blog to talk about her picture book “10 Little Ninjas.” This time she is stopping by to talk about her latest picture book “The Great Pasta Escape” on its book birthday!
Miranda Paul is both an award-winning writer and a world changer. She has published 8 books to date and has more on the way. You can learn more about her at her website.
Her book “The Great Pasta Escape” is a fun romp with puns and all the different types of pasta who discover that their “super” fate might not be as super as they think. Dare I say it’s a funny “mystery” with a surprising twist?
Me: Welcome back Miranda! You have six picture books out now, another due out later this year (“Are We Pears Yet?”), and a couple more already with contracts. What would you say is the secret to your success?
Miranda: As you know, there is no secret to success. I don’t sit here every day and say, “I want to succeed,” or “look at all this success.” I ask things like, “Will this format engage kids?” or “Let me try a new idea,” or “My best books are yet to come.” A nose-to-the-grindstone attitude and a focus on what’s truly important help keep the fear of failure away. Maybe that’s the secret—engross yourself in great work so there’s no time for fear or comparison to others. Have no expectation of success, but welcome whatever opportunity comes along. If you’re not preoccupied with measuring yourself against your own (or someone else’s) standard of success, you’ll spend most of your time working and living more fully—which, I suppose, leads to this thing called ‘success.’
Me: True! You have at least one book coming out that you’ve co-written with your husband, Baptiste Paul. What’s it like collaborating with another writer versus doing a solo project?
Miranda: Most of what we do together is nonfiction or heavily research-based, so it’s nice to have a co-author to share in that long process. We actually wrote our first book together more than four years ago, but haven’t sold that one yet. For Adventures to School (summer 2018, little bee books) and I am Farmer (2019, Lerner) the process for each was a little like group work in school, only wayyyy better. Sometimes we’re working on the same manuscript, but in different rooms (or floors) of the same house! We even got to travel together to Cameroon to finish up research.
Me: There was a Pasta ABC book that came out earlier this year with goofy doodles using the different pasta shapes. And now, here you are writing a story with pasta characters. It seems great ideas tend to come in twos or threes, etc. So what gave you this idea?
Miranda: I didn’t see the Pasta ABC book. How fun! This happens, I suppose, because there are often years between the writing and the publishing of the book. My editor actually gave me the idea to write a book on pasta, since kids love noodles so much and also because they also publish a lot of food-related books. My manuscript started out as pasta poems, but evolved into a punny plot-driven text with a bunch of quirky characters.
Me: Which is one of the many reasons I love this story. LOL! In this day and age where allergies are becoming more prevalent and more kids are becoming gluten free, what do you think the draw is to a story with pasta as characters? Is this story a fantasy escape with those kids in mind who aren’t able to enjoy pasta?
Miranda: Yeah, so it’s about talking pasta. I’m sure some of them are gluten-free. It’s not meant to be didactic, trendy, or associated with the real world in any way. Plus, if you follow the subtext in the illustrations closely, there are a lot of themes to glean. I mean, the writer saves the day, after all.
Me: LOL! I did notice that particular twist. 😉 The pictures in this are also SO fun. I just love how every character has such a unique personality. I know some of that personality is in the text, but did you get to work with the illustrator at all on how they were drawn? Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Miranda: Javier’s illustrations are great. I had just a few art notes, not many. My favorite illustration surprise was at the end—look at shell, who has found a new friend in their “super” place. Ha!
Me: LOL! That gave me a giggle too. Do you have any stories you can share that are unique to this book? Did it have a unique publication journey? Or a struggle with revision?
Miranda: I wrote several wildly different drafts, because the initial spark came from my editor and I suppose I was worried about trying too hard to impress her, and I was also finishing up another book at the same time. I spent lots of time on the phone with my agent rehashing new ideas about what kind of pasta story this would be, and freaking out that I couldn’t do it. I ultimately decided to write one that fit my style—which is always the right thing to do. And my “style” includes wordplay, unity, and playfulness. My friend Melissa kept me in good spirits by snapchatting pasta puns while I worked on it. I dedicated the book to her in gratitude. I also made sketches of every noodle and their personality profile to help me get their dialogue just right. But the real horror of working on this book came not too long ago when I was getting ready to send out F&Gs and I cooked pasta for dinner. Somehow, the boiling water splashed and burned my hand. I had to wrap and treat it for a week, and couldn’t write much. I think the noodles wanted revenge!
Me: Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that. No revenge seeking noodles here! I adore pasta of all sorts, but growing up I loved lasagna because of Garfield. Do you have a favorite pasta and why (or why not)?
Miranda: Penne! Check the author profile on the jacket and there’s a little tidbit about why penne doesn’t make an appearance in The Great Pasta Escape.
LOL! I just read the jacket again (I forgot that you put that there). Now that is a great … exclusion? Thanks for stopping by again Miranda. Dear readers, if you haven’t read this book yet, track it down and give it a read. It’s certainly worth a laugh. =D