Samantha Berger here, author of Crankenstein, Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry, Martha Doesn’t Share, Princess Potty, Pirate Potty, and a Berger-load of other picture books, cartoony-shorts, and other acts of whimsy.
I was so honored that Mike Curato asked me to be a bloggy contributor on this awesome author/illustrator blog tour. SUCH a cool idea.
I knew Mike’s work before I knew Mike. I saw that Little Elliot character of his at an SCBWI conference, and like everyone else, swooned. It was love at first sight. I heard that agents and editors were having street rumbles to get their hands on Mike’s work, and I am not surprised. Check out his new book Little Elliot Big City, and you will see why. A character who is instantly-lovable.
Later, Mike and I met at a Kid Lit event, and I discovered the same was true about Mike himself. Amazing character and instantly-loveable. So I am just thrilled that he thought of me to be the next stop on the Blog Tour. Thank you MIKE!
Here’s a great other link where you can buy Mike’s book at your nearest independent bookstore, or one that will ship to you. We DO so love our independent booksellers!
Let’s get this blog tour rolling and let me get to the questions! (Drumroll, please…)
WHAT AM I CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
What am I currently NOT working on, might be easier to answer.
Right this minute, I am working on the sequel to CRANKENSTEIN, which is called A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE with the outstanding illustrator, Dan Santat and our fabulous publisher, Little, Brown.
Spoiler: Crankenstein is still cranky in the second book.
I know, shocking.
That will be out in December of 2014, this very year, so we are all moving in fast-motion to the Benny Hill soundtrack in order to get that done.
Another Spoiler: Dan’s sketches so far are AH-MAAAAZING.
I am also working on the launch of two brand spankin’ new books with Dial/Penguin, which both come out in 2015.
One of them is WITCH SPA, with the positively bewitching illustrator, Isabel Roxas.
It’s about when witches are just EXHAUSTED after Halloween from all their haunting and howling, late nights and long flights, they go to a spa just for witches!
And all the spa treatments are witch-ified, like Broom Bristle Facials and Hag Stone Massages!
I wanted to do something extra special for this book, so I just did the author photo shoot DRESSED LIKE A WITCH!
What a cacklingly good time that was!
The next book is called SNOOZEFEST, and is illustrated by the absolutely dreamy illustrator Kristyna Litten.
It’s about a little sloth named Snuggleford Cuddlebun, who sleeps all year long, and only gets up to attend the world’s greatest festival for the world’s greatest SLEEPERS!
It’s SNOOZAPALOOZA! COUCH-CHELLA! And SNORINGMAN all rolled into one.
These books have been in the works for quite some time, and I’m getting behind them with all my might, so I am also working on the promotional campaign, as we speak.
In addition to that, I am working on a presentation for a creative conference in Japan, about the “Paper Doll Found Object Fashions” I have been making every day
and just completed a semester of being a picture book mentor in Emma Walton Hamilton’s awesome program at SUNY Stony Brook.
…Pant pant pant…
I am working on that a lot, too.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
My editors always tell me that they find my work unique because it’s a “mash-up” of genres. That CRANKENSTEIN, for example, is a mash-up of being both an “emotions book,” and a “monster book.” That WITCH SPA is both a “girlie-girl book” and a “gross out book.” That SNOOZEFEST is both a “bedtime book” and a “rowdy concert book.”
*But secretly, I never ever have these things in mind when I’m writing.
I would say, what differentiates my books from others of their genre is…I wrote them.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I WRITE?
I write what I write because I am who I am.
I’m compelled to. I have to. It’s not really an option.
At this point, I think in 32-page format, I dream up book ideas in my sleep, I see endpages.
But I always run my own ideas through this filter (usually after I’ve written it):
• Is there truly a worthy book here?
• If I think it’s a very strong idea, how is it possible this book doesn’t already exist?
If it doesn’t, then it should!
• Would I absolutely love this book if I was five? Fifty? One hundred? Picture books should be for EVERYONE. To love.
• Is it really worth chopping down trees to make this book? Some books yes. Some books…eh, not so much.
HOW DOES MY INDIVIDUAL WRITING/ILLUSTRATING PROCESS WORK?
Well this is a toughie, because my process tends to fluctuate like the weather.
But mostly, it goes a little something like this.
I write and write and write all the time, every single day, and draw and draw and draw, as well.
Sometimes, the name of the book is the thing that hits me first.
Like with MARTHA DOESN’T SAY SORRY, I was once talking to my friend over dinner, and she told me a story about her mother, Martha, being a little out of line.
I asked her if her mom ever apologized, and she laughed hard and said “Martha doesn’t apologize.”
I laughed, too, and said, “That would be a great name of a picture book!”
And that night, I went home and wrote it.
After writing it, I plugged it into a book map, to see the pacing and comic timing of page-turns, which is really critical in picture book writing.
After that, I illustrated it, and submitted it to Little, Brown as an entire book dummy.
I’m a big believer in conveying the whole vision of a project, and really think it helps communicate exactly what the creator is going for.
So even though I didn’t end up illustrating the MARTHA books myself (the amazing Bruce Whatley did), my editor told me, it was because of seeing the books fully dummied out, that she GOT what I was going for and signed the book.
With WITCH SPA, I sat up in bed at 4 O’clock in the morning and said the words “witch spa” out loud. I laughed groggily, and fell back asleep.
In the morning, I asked myself, “what was that?”
And then I answered myself.
“It’s a spa…where witches go…after Halloween…”.
I sat down to elaborate, and the book poured out of me, and somehow came out rhyming.
A surprise to all.
So, unless it’s a specific assignment (I write a lot of books on assignment and often use the pseudonym Martha T. Ottersley. The “T.” stands for “The”), I really think book ideas come from anywhere, from everywhere, and at all times.
For me, the key is to be ready for them, with an open ear, an open mind, and an open sketchbook, pen in hand.
NEXT UP ON THE BLOG TOUR…
Joyce Wan is the author and illustrator of many books for young readers (and readers of ALL ages, like me!). Some of her most classics are YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and WE BELONG TOGETHER (I can’t get enough of these!) and most recently, MY LUCKY LITTLE DRAGON and SLEEPYHEADS written by Sandra J. Howatt. Joyce has a style and voice completely unique and highly addictive. In addition to books, Joyce also does gift cards, stickers, posters, and pins! I just wish she made dresses, sheets, and wallpaper out of all her gorgeous prints. My whole life would be “Wan-derful.” I’m thrilled to pass the baton to Joyce and can’t wait to hear what she has to say next week!
Also, I am passing the Blog Tour to the absolutely incredible Carin Berger.
*This is *not* because we have the same last name.
It *IS* because Carin creates some of my very favorite picture books, and I am in deep smit with all of them.
Carin is a MULTI award winning designer, illustrator, and author. She has worked in London, San Francisco, and New York City. Her illustrations, cut paper collages, are made with scraps of ephemera, used clothing catalogues, and old ticket stubs. Basically, any odds and ends that she can find. Her first two children’s books, Not So True Stories and Unreasonable Rhymes, and All Mixed Up, were published by Chronicle Books and she has illustrated Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, Greenwillow Books, 2006. The Little Yellow Leaf and Ok Go!, both published by Greenwillow Books, are her two most recent books. Design clients include Random House, WW Norton, Little Brown & Co., Pantheon Books, Penguin Putnam, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Thanks to everyone for reading this, and big thanks to Mike Curato AGAIN for inviting me to play!
Keep reading, keep creating, and keep a rap-tap-tapping on the keyboards!