Today I get to bring you another dazzling debut picture book with another talented author.
Charlotte Offsay was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Born into a family with a love of travel and adventure, Charlotte enjoys exploring new places and cultures. She is a former corporate finance client specialist who now spends her days caring for her family, volunteering in her local community, traveling, and using her experiences to fuel her true passion: writing. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again. You can learn more about her at her website.
“The Big Beach Cleanup” is Charlotte’s debut as picture book author, illustrated by Kate Rewse and published by Albert Whitman. It’s a sweet story of one little girl (Cora) and her desire to win a sandcastle contest. However, trash shuts down her dreams and cancels the contest. BUT it doesn’t shut down her determination. Cora eagerly seeks help from her mother, her Grandpa and anyone around her who is willing to listen and lend a hand. This book lets kids know that they don’t have to wait until they’re older to make a difference in the world around them. It empowers young readers into being leaders for change.
Me: I love your story and how it empowers kids to make changes in the world around them. You live in LA with wonderful beaches. Is this a story that was inspired by the world around you? What gave you the idea?
Charlotte: Thank you for your kind words! The heart of The Big Beach Cleanup stemmed from a desire to write a story that empowered children to be the change they want to see in the world and to know that they didn’t have to be superheroes to take action and make a difference. It took me a while to find the right way into this story but one morning while walking my children to school I stopped to pick up a piece of trash and toss it in a nearby trashcan. My simple action sparked endless questions and big conversations around where trash goes when it is dropped on the street and the impact litter has on our beloved beaches, animals and planet. We spoke at length about the importance of doing our part and inspiring others around us to do the same. That day I went home and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!
Me: What does your writing process look like?
Charlotte: My writing process varies with each manuscript and no two manuscripts ever seem to follow the same path. Generally speaking, I get an idea for a story which crawls under my skin and won’t rest or let me do much of anything else until I write it down. I try to allow myself to get a crummy first draft out before doing research on what is already out on the market so that I have my heart/intention down on paper before getting a sense of what is already out there and making sure that my manuscript would stand out/be marketable. Once I get an idea, I become consumed with writing and rewriting until I have a fairly polished draft. I work closely with a few trusted critique partners from the beginning – we often share ideas in the seed form, brainstorm, exchange crummy first drafts and when we are deep in the revision process it isn’t unusual for us to go back and forth daily and chat/brainstorm continually as we revise. From there I then reach out to various other critique partners for fresh eyes and holes that I sometimes miss when deep in the revision process. I then revise again before sending it off what is hopefully a pretty polished manuscript, pitch and summary of where I envision it in the market to my agent to get her thoughts.
I am lucky enough to get to partner with the fabulous Nicole Geiger of Full Circle Literary who worked as an editor for many years and is able to offer her insights into marketability, if anything needs to be reworked and then it is back to revisions or put in the queue to go out on submission!
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Charlotte: One thing that surprised me when writing this story is just how hard it is to walk the line between writing an engaging story that kids will enjoy while also inspiring them to environmental action without being didactic. It was important to me to inspire kids AND write a story for them that would be fun to read with a character that they could relate to and care about. It took quite a large number of drafts to develop Cora (the main character of The Big Beach Cleanup) and to strike what I hope readers will agree is the right balance!
Me: I certainly think you achieved that! You are passionate about taking care of our oceans and beaches. Why is this something you want to share with young readers?
Charlotte: Plastic/ocean pollution is a big problem that directly impacts us all. It pollutes the beaches rivers and wetlands we enjoy, the animals we love, our water, seafood and our health! The problem is growing bigger every year and it is going to take a lot of hands joining together to make the big changes that are essential to protecting what we love and our own health! It is important to me to share this with young readers to raise awareness about the problem, to inspire them to help and to encourage them to follow in Cora’s footsteps and be the change we so desperately need!
Me: The illustrations by Katie Rewse are wonderful. I especially loved the textures and color palette. Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Charlotte: I adore Katie Rewse’s artwork and was thrilled when my editor, Christina Pulles told me that I would get to partner with her on our book. Katie is a big ocean advocate herself and was the perfect choice for The Big Beach Cleanup. I therefore wasn’t surprised that I fell head over heels for her illustrations for our book, and I was moved by the emotion she managed to so beautifully capture. In particular, the image of Cora’s mother comforting her on the bench after she struggles to find people to join her efforts on the beach really tugs at my heartstrings!
Me: Any advice for other picture book writers?
Charlotte: The path to publication looks different not only for each writer but also for each book. Keep going, keep pushing yourself to grow and to learn, don’t worry about what other peoples’ journeys look like. As much as you can try to focus on your own path, surround yourself with a strong support system and most importantly don’t get off the rollercoaster – your yes could be just around the corner! Holding my book in my hands and reading it to my children has made every dip and turn worthwhile tenfold!
Me: I love that! You have two more picture books coming out in the near future. Is there anything you can tell us about them?
Charlotte: I would love to! Thank you for asking! I am thrilled to share that How to Return a Monster is publishing with Beaming Books in September. How to Return a Monster is a story about a child’s attempts to reverse course when a new baby joins the family. A Grandma’s Magic is publishing with Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House in Spring 2022. It is a picture book celebration of grandmothers and all the ways in which they are “magical,” and heavily influenced by my own beloved Grandmother who I adore and lives across the pond!
Aww! Those both sound like great reads Charlotte. I can’t wait to read them. Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet to read this book, I highly recommend it. It’s incredibly difficult to write a story on a subject one is so passionate about, without sounding didactic. BUT Charlotte has managed to create a character who is loving, encouraging, and empowered. This is no minor feat and this is definitely a book to study to see just how she accomplished that.