Simply 7 interview & prize with Marsha Diane Arnold–May I Come In?

Today, Marsha Diane Arnold stops by my blog for another Simply 7 interview.  This time she is talking about a new picture book that is being later released this month, “May I Come In?”  There is also a PRIZE to give away!

Marsha headshotIf you haven’t had a chance yet to meet Marsha Diane Arnold, let me introduce her.  Marsha Arnold is an award-winning children’s author with over one million books sold. This is her first book with Sleeping Bear Press. Her titles include Waiting for Snow, Roar of a Snore, and The Bravest of Us All. Honors include Children’s Choice awards, IRA Distinguished Book Awards, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  You can learn more about her at her website.

Cover“May I Come In?” is a story about Raccoon and a very big and scary storm.  Raccoon seeks friendship and shelter, comfort and care.  The illustrations by Jennie Poh are perfect for this story.

Welcome back to my blog Marsha!  I can’t wait to talk about this book.

Thanks Jena!

Me: This is another story with a set of woodland creatures (a popular theme in your books). What draws you to them?

Marsha: It’s true! My recent books are filled with lovely woodland animals from Lost. Found. with Bear, River Otter, and others to Waiting for Snow with Badger, Hedgehog and friends and now May I Come In? Watch for more!  =)

I’ve long had an affinity for animals, both wild and domestic. Most of my life, I’ve lived in the country, wildlife surrounding me. In Kansas, my next-door neighbor had a pet raccoon named Cindy that he’d raised from an injured cub. (This was in the 1950s when there were few animal rehabilitation centers to care for injured wildlife and none in rural Kansas.) I remember climbing up into the treehouse with my neighbor Cindy, enjoying the view and the breeze. I hadn’t thought of it before, but maybe Raccoon in May I Come In? was inspired by Cindy.

In California, my family lived for thirty-five wonderful years on top of a hill, near an oak, manzanita, and madrone forest. I considered the quail, deer, fox, possum and yes, raccoon my neighbors.

Me: I think my favorite character is the Woodchuck with his little bow tie! Did you get to see any of the illustrations in advance? Were you familiar with Jennie Poh’s work previously? What was your favorite part of the illustrations?

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Marsha: We didn’t have any woodchucks on our California hill, so I’m not sure where that cute woodchuck came from, but Jennie Poh certainly gave him some character in our book.

My editor did send Jennie’s early sketches to me. Woodchuck didn’t have his adorable bow tie in those sketches, but I agree it’s very cute.

I wasn’t familiar with Jennie’s work prior to May I Come In?, but I thought her style perfect for the story. I like all the illustrations, but my favorite may be the image used in the book as well as the cover, with Raccoon looking through the rain at the red door in the distance and “a tiny light, glimmering and shimmering.”

Me: I love the rhythm of this story and your use of onomatopoeia. It feels so natural and effortless. Did this come easily as you were writing the story? Or was that a challenge? Did this story come easily to you?

 Marsha: Thank you, Jena. I’m glad you found the rhythm and onomatopoeia fun.

This story, the rhythm, and the words did come fairly easily to me. I only had a few drafts of the story. That’s most unusual for me. I usually have scores of drafts for a story!

Me: Wow!  That’s fantastic!  You don’t usually hear that.  LOL!  Raccoon reminds me of many children who might be afraid of something like a storm or lightning. Was there a particular child or incident that inspired this story? What made you think of the premise of an animal going out into a storm to find the comfort of company?

Marsha: There wasn’t a particular child or incident that inspired May I Come In?. Truly I can’t recall what made me think of the premise. As I share in my Writing Wonderful Character Driven Picture Book course at Children’s Book Academy, I most often begin writing with a character and that character leads me through the story. I guess Raccoon was feeling frightened by the storm and decided to take a “stroll” through Thistle Hollow to find company.

Me: I know you were much like another character in this story during the Hurricane Irma situation. It took over most of the East Coast! You don’t get a storm much bigger than that! Did your experience with Irma influence this story at all?

Marsha: My story was written long before Hurricane Irma. I wrote it years ago and the story was bought by Sleeping Bear Press in early 2017. But Hurricane Irma certainly brought echoes of my story to me. Many families here in SW Florida were told to evacuate their homes. We had fourteen people and their two dogs in our home during the storm. “Come right in,” we said, just like Rabbit. Many other families also opened their homes during the hurricanes. When the fires came to Sonoma County, California, our previous home, we heard many stories of friends who had opened their homes to others. If we could open our hearts to others in the same way we open our homes, wouldn’t that be wonderful? 

Me: Why is the message “come right in, there’s always room for a friend” important to you?

 Marsha: Inclusion. It’s so important to all of us. When we’re not inclusive, we keep others from joining a conversation or a game, from feeling welcome. I was a shy child and I often felt excluded. It’s not a good feeling. It hurts me still to see others, especially children, excluded.

Me: That’s SO true, and such a timely message right now.  Last question: If you could be a woodland creature or any animal at all for a day, what animal do you think you would be?

Marsha: That’s a difficult question. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be any animal for a day, to see what they see and hear, to feel what they feel? I think I’d choose a hawk or eagle. To be able to fly above the hills and trees and rivers of earth, soaring and strong. What could be better?

This book is so simple and yet I could read so much into it.  That’s the beauty of picture books: they are SO layered.  And with the need and demand for multicultural literature where kids can see themselves and feel included, the message of inclusion is SO incredibly important.  I think it’s why the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” resonated with so many people (myself included!).

Yes, I went there.  I grew up a very lonely child, the weirdo of a small town.  I worried for years that I was somehow so odd that I was meant to be alone forever.  Then I made a best friend as an adult and knew I wasn’t alone.  Then I fell in love after 20 years of being single (my husband says it really should be 40, but I don’t count childhood) and I knew I could be loved for who I was.  THEN I met my tribe in this community, the picture book community, and I KNEW I belonged.  Those moments were each a salve to my soul.  Those moments should belong to us all.  No one should know the pain of being in the dark.  Or in the storm.

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That’s the true beauty of this book.  And just because I want to share these warm fuzzies with everyone else, there is a giveaway of the book AND a Sleeping Bear Press tote bag!  All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter at the link here.  It’s that easy and I gave you, my dear readers, plenty of ways to enter multiple times.  Good luck!  😉

About jenabenton

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

38 Responses

  1. Jackie Baumgartner

    Jena, I so enjoyed this interview. Marsha, years and miles separate us, but we have such treasured memories of your author visit in our little “burg” on the high plains of Kansas! “Heart of a Tiger, “The Pumpkin Runner,” “Prancing, Dancing Lily,” and personal favorite “The Bravest Of Us All” invited us to make lasting friendships with marvelous characters with a whole generation. Now meeting those in your latest “Lost. Found,” “Waiting for Snow” and soon “May I Come in?” and sharing them with another generation brings such joy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so wonderful to hear from you here, Jackie. My visit with you and your school community is one of my most cherished memories too! I still share some of those moments in interviews. Thinking about them makes me smile. Thanks so much for continuing to share my books. I have four more coming in the next two years for and hopefully more after that. Hugs on the wind to you all on the Kansas plains.

      Like

    1. I understand. It was indeed special to have a raccoon neighbor. 🙂 I have a strong affinity for animals too. My two favorite books from my childhood were Lassie Come Home and Black Gold. Hope you enjoy MAY I COME IN? Jennie Poh’s illustrations are truly charming.

      Like

  2. Janet E Sheets

    I can tell from these pages that you have a wonderful way with language — your words have such a wonderful sound and rhythm. I look forward to reading “May I Come In?”

    Liked by 1 person

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