Winter is coming and it feels like it’s coming SOON, here in Alaska. What a perfect time to introduce a fun-in-the-snow picture book!
Angela H. Dale writes picture books for children and for the grownups who read to them, and also writes poems (which sometimes become picture books). She has one super power – reading – and she wants to share it with everyone. As a kid she would bike to the library to check out books on her very own library card. In elementary school she once read 40 books in 40 days. She likes to write stories too and won second place for a story she wrote in college.
Angela worked for a literary agent in Washington, DC, and a book publisher in New York City before moving around the world with her family when her husband was in the Navy. Some of the places Angela has lived include Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Florida and Japan, and she has lots of stories she hopes to tell from those times. But her debut picture book was inspired by a bus stop just down the street from her home in Maryland; all 26 of the characters in BUS STOP are named after her children’s friends and classmates. You can learn more about her at her website.
BUS STOP is a cleverly hidden ABC book. Kids come to the bus stop with names from A to Z, each incredibly puzzled why the bus isn’t showing up. Snow starts and they all have a blast. Then they realized exactly why the bus isn’t coming: it’s a SNOW DAY! This is a poetic and fun winter romp that will have readers in fits of giggles at every child’s antics.
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What brought you to writing? What has your publishing journey looked like up till the present?
Angela: First, thank you Jena, for having me here. I had so much fun thinking about and answering your questions.
I remember writing what may have been my first story in second grade – I had so much to say I kept expanding it into the margins of the looseleaf. In middle school I wrote a very grim story for a contest – I wonder what my mother though as she typed it up for me. I didn’t win that one, but I did get second place in a college competition. I worked in publishing for a few years in New York, moved to Washington, DC, and in the early days of the dial-up modem (remember those screechy things!) became a writing consultant while moving around as a Navy spouse. I didn’t returned to creative writing until much later, and my first picture book manuscript was a 1,300 word rhymer – I was so clearly unfamiliar with the market – but I sent it out to a few agents, and one replied almost immediately with an encouraging pass (that never happened again!). I was hooked. My first sub was exactly 10 years ago last week, and now here I am with my debut coming out tomorrow. I know there’s data out there that says this is not an unusual timeline (that data was always my light at the end of the tunnel) – and it was totally worth the wait.
Me: I love that this is a sneaky alphabet book! The kids show up at the bus stop with names starting with A and ending with Z but it’s not an ABC book per se. What gave you the idea?
Angela: It’s very hard to have a lot of different characters in one picture book, but that’s exactly what I saw at the bus down the street that inspired me – lots and lots of children, and I wanted to include them all. With the alphabet, suddenly there was room for 26 different characters. It inherently provides organizational structure and reinforces the narrative arc in the story, as the names get closer and closer to Z. I loved that I got to use a lot of my kids’ friends’ names in the book. All of the names come from children in my kids’ elementary school when they were there. In the end, Lala made more than 26 individual recurring characters, including at least a half-dozen unnamed kids, which I love because any reader can find themselves on the page.
Me: Kids waiting at the bus stop in the snow is a brilliant premise alone, yet you added that alphabet layer on top which deepens the reading. What is one thing that surprised you in writing this book?
Angela: When the manuscript was accepted it was about 200 words. Pretty short, right? Well, after wonderful editorial feedback from Amy Novesky at Cameron Kids, I pared it down to less than 100 words, and I love the energy those 26 name + verb sentences bring to each page.
Me: I love that too. What does your writing process look like?
Angela: Oh gosh, I wish I had a process. I write in different rooms, in different chairs, at no particular time, for no particular duration. Sometimes I’ll scribble notes in a notebook, but I usually start my first draft on the computer, then at various stages print the latest draft out and do hard copy edits. I have a critique partner and several critique groups, and usually the manuscript makes it to each one at least once during the drafting and revision stage. Their feedback is indispensable. I spend a lot of time not-writing, which feels like I’m slacking, but I keep reminding myself that all that percolation is part of my process. So maybe I do have a process after all.
Me: The illustrations by Lala Watkins are so playful. I love the variety of kiddos and activities. Did you have any say in art notes? Or did Lala create all these amazing characters on her own?
Angela: Aren’t they just amazing! I want to live in that colorful, lively Bus Stop world. Lala created that world and each character in it herself. I did have the chance to look at sketches and art at a few points in the process, which was so exciting. Sometimes there would be a winsome kid who wasn’t named, and I’d ask if that could be one of the named characters. But really, it’s Lala’s vision on the page. I’ve been so lucky to have her partner with me on my debut.
Me: Any advice or insight for other new picture book writers?
Angela: Find your people, collectively and individually. So much is out there in the virtual world: craft and industry groups with great programs and supports, and individuals sharing their lessons learned, tips and tricks, cheerleading and conversation. Connect with what and who motivates and inspires you, and don’t worry about the rest, because it is a lot! You’ll always have to find out some things ‘the hard way,’ but if you can connect with others, at any stage in your journey, it makes a big difference. If you can find local people to connect with, even better.
Me: Since your book BUS STOP is about the fun of winter, what is your favorite season? Why?
Angela: Usually it’s the one just getting into gear. I love the change of seasons, and I don’t get too weary of a season until it’s winding down, and then I’m happy for the switch. If I had to pick just one, I’d say winter, because I love hot chocolate, a good crackling fire, and watching the snow fall – and then going out to romp in it. I think I get even more excited about getting snowed in than my kids.
Thanks again Jena for this fun interview on the eve of Bus Stop’s publication, and a shout out to the whole Cameron Kids team who made it a reality.
Thank YOU Angela for stopping by my blog and sharing about your book.
Dear readers, this wonderful winter book is due out tomorrow. It’s a fun winter romp, a snow day story, and an ABC book all rolled into one. Don’t miss it!