The final interview in the kickoff celebration of the new Transmedia Mutts blog features picture book authors Charlotte Offsay, Kirsten Pendreigh, and Adrea Theodore. During my debut year, I was part of two picture book marketing groups, which helped me survive the angst of releasing a book. Plus, I met a bunch of awesome writing friends! Adrea was a fellow member of 21 for the Books, and Charlotte and Kirsten were in the Picture Book Scribblers, and as you can see in the video, I was pretty much giddy about interviewing them. Kenzi was also excited to see them and popped her head in several times to say Hello!
The three authors compare notes on being stubborn enough to make it in publishing and building your confidence in the face of rejection. They chat about finding inspiration in reading, in their kids, in taking walks, and the ideas that won’t leave you alone or that make you laugh in the middle of the night. And when it comes to the not-so-fun topic of book promo, they agree that making genuine connections is the key to enjoying it, and that you should push yourself out of your comfort zone. Check out the interview for their excellent advice on a variety of topics!
Here are a few of the things we chatted about, condensed and edited for readability.
Jocelyn: Has there been an AHA! moment along your road to publication where you felt you had it all figured out (writing or publishing or promo or whatever)?
Kirsten: I would just say to have a life and a happiness outside of writing because don’t rely on writing to bring you joy. I mean it will, but it will be a bonus joy, so you’ve got to have something else going on.
Adrea: Yeah, like the publishing side of it, don’t let that be the part that brings you joy. The writing itself can bring you joy, that camaraderie with other authors can bring you joy, reading other books can bring you joy, but the publishing business side is different.
Charlotte: I love that every book has its own journey, too. There have been stories that come easier than others, but every time I start a new story, I swear I’ve forgotten how to write. But my aha moment would be realizing that I could trust myself. I think in the beginning, I was too eager to take every piece of advice that everyone gave to me, but not every story resonates with every person. It only takes one yes to get published, and there are a lot of NOs before that one yes will come in, so know your why for writing your particular story. Notice if there’s a specific area that people are pointing to, but don’t necessarily take every piece of advice that comes in, and trust yourself along the way. So I think my aha moment, for what it’s worth, is trusting my own gut with my writing, which is an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to learn to do.
Jocelyn: Where do you look for inspiration for new stories? Or does it usually find you?
Charlotte: I tend to write about the things that consume me and won’t leave me alone until I’ve put them on paper. I think writing for me is a way of processing what’s going on in my life, in my head, and with my children – they’re a source of inspiration. But really, it’s me processing how I feel about it through the eyes of a child on the written page. So my ideas come for me and then they won’t leave me alone. If I’m looking for new ideas and looking for a new project, I tend to read a lot of picture books, which usually sparks my own memories of things and then the whole circle starts again.
Kirsten: Yeah, honestly, for me, it’s going out in nature, walking, all of that stuff, but some of my kind of wackiest, most fun ideas come at night when I should be sleeping. And I have to get up and write them down, and it drives my partner nuts because sometimes I’ll be lying there just laughing about a story idea that I have. So where it came from, I have no idea, but I think just allowing your brain to be in a really quiet, neutral space things will come to you.
Adrea: Yeah, I was thinking about being open to the wonders of the world. Try to look at things from the eyes of a child. They’re always looking at things that are wonderful to them. You’re just like, “Oh, that’s a leaf.” And they’re like, “Oh! Oh! Look at the leaf! It’s really wonderful! And look at this leaf over here! Look at this other leaf over here! They’re all different!” So trying to sort of keep that frame of mind. I think as you go about and experience your day, sometimes things just come to you. And there are things where I can be inspired and compelled to write about them because they make such an impression on me. But I think it can come from anywhere.
Charlotte: I will say my 2024 book, the cumulative book, I very purposefully decided that I wanted to challenge myself and write a cumulative structure picture book, so I think, sometimes if you really aren’t finding an idea, or even if an idea is not working, taking it and completely switching the structure and challenging yourself like that was a bit of a breakthrough.
Jocelyn: Do you have a last piece of advice to share?
Adrea: My last piece of advice for aspiring authors, and even for current authors, would be to celebrate every little win that you get. So if you have gotten a manuscript request from somebody, or if you’ve signed with an agent, or if someone has given you a good review, I think you need to take time to celebrate all those things along the way, instead of just waiting for the big awards or whatever because they may or may not come. Take the time to celebrate your journey and the things that happen along the way that are bringing you joy.
Kirsten: I would say read a lot. But remember why you’re writing and remember your own unique voice. Because there’s a lot of stuff out there that kind of all sounds the same, and you need to have your own writer’s voice. And maybe it’s a weird, quirky voice that only one editor out of 200 likes, but it’s yours and readers will connect with an authentic voice versus something that feels produced. So, yeah, just be true to your voice.
Charlotte: Absolutely, yeah. And I’ll say find your people. Stick with them. It’s a roller coaster when you start, and it’s roller coaster after multiple books come out, so don’t get off until you find your Yes, but find the people to ride it with.
Jocelyn: Ha! Yes, publishing is definitely a roller coaster, and it’s a less terrifying ride with friends alongside you also shrieking with panic and joy! If you’re looking for friends to ride the roller coaster with, then come join us in the Transmedia Mutts Facebook group!
Thank you so much to Charlotte, Kirsten, and Adrea for joining me, and check out some of their books below.
Have fun and go unleash your creative bark!
A History of Me
by Adrea Theodore
Neal Porter Books
Released January 18, 2022
An uplifting message of hope for the future and pride in your history, inspired by a mother’s experience of being the only Black child in her classroom.
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
Emphasizing the strength, creativity, and courage passed down through generations, A History of Me offers a joyful new perspective on how we look at history and an uplifting message for the future.
Being the only brown girl in a classroom full of white students can be hard. When the teacher talks about slavery and civil rights, she can feel all the other students’ eyes on her. In those moments she wants to seep into the ground, wondering, is that all you see when you look at me?
Having gone through the same experiences, the girl’s mother offers a different, empowering point of view: she is a reflection of the powerful women that have come before her, of the intelligence, resilience, and resourcefulness that have been passed down through the generations. Her history is a source of pride, a reason to sit up straight and recognize everything beautiful and powerful in herself.
What really matters is what we see when we look in the mirror, and what we want to become.
Inspired by the authors’ experiences in school and as a parent, Adrea Theodore’s debut picture book is a powerful testament to the past as well as a benediction for the future. Erin Robinson’s digital illustrations feature a wealth of texture and a bold, saturated palette, bringing this warm message of empowerment to life.
An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
An NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Purchase A History of Me at Bookshop
Purchase A History of Me at Amazon
Adrea Gist Theodore (MD, MPH) is a mom, a pediatrician and a children’s book author from Durham, North Carolina. Growing up on Long Island, Adrea was the quintessential bookworm, almost always with a book in her hand. Her love of reading, writing and language has continued to grow throughout the years; and with her own child, Adrea began to revisit the favorite stories from her childhood. She was inspired to begin writing, became a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and participated in a local critique group, leading to the creation of her debut picture book, A History of Me.
When not writing, Dr. Theodore works in a local child advocacy center (CAC) with children being evaluated for abuse or neglect. Every child she sees there also has a story to tell.
Dr. Theodore is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University (B.A.), the University of Virginia School of Medicine (M.D.), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health (M.P.H.). She completed her residency training in Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. Learn more at adreatheodore.com.
Luna’s Green Pet
by Kirsten Pendreigh
Sleeping Bear Press
Released August 30, 2022
Luna longs for a pet but the apartment building where she and her family live has a very strict NO PETS! policy. Not even goldfish are allowed. While her friends try to help with alternate pet suggestions, none interest Luna. Almost ready to give up, Luna spies in the trash something small, something green, something someone has discarded–a wilted plant. Perfect! Luna names her new pet Stephanie, confident she can nurse the plant back to health. When others question Stephanie’s suitability as a pet, Luna’s devotion is unwavering. She knows Stephanie is perfect just as she is. But will Luna’s love and care be enough to bring Stephanie to full health? And what are those strange bumps growing on her? Brought to life with warm, expressive artwork, this charming story of one young girl’s belief, determination, and out-of-the-box thinking is perfect for anyone who has ever wished for a pet, only to be told no. Back matter includes tips on how to grow your own “Stephanie.”
Purchase Luna’s Green Pet at Bookshop
Purchase Luna’s Green Pet at Amazon
Kirsten Pendreigh is a children’s author and poet from Vancouver. Her debut picture book, LUNA’S GREEN PET, published in 2022 with Sleeping Bear Press. In the story, a determined little girl circumvents her landlord’s strict “No Pets” policy by “rescuing” a houseplant and training it to be her pet. MAYBE A WHALE, Kirsten’s lyrical story about coming to terms with loss, is out in 2023 with Groundwood Books. WHEN A TREE FALLS, a nonfiction picture book about nurse logs, will publish in 2025 with Chronicle Books. Kirsten’s poems are found in Canadian literary magazines and anthologies including Best Canadian Poetry 2021. Kirsten was formerly a CBC and NPR journalist. Learn more at kirstenpendreigh.com.
A Grandma’s Magic
by Charlotte Offsay
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
April 5, 2022
A picture book celebrating grandmas and all that makes them “magic”, ideal for fans of How to Babysit a Grandma.
“When a child is born, a grandma is born too. Grandmas aren’t like regular grown-ups. Grandmas are filled with magic.”
In this charming picture book tribute to grandmas, a grandma’s magic bursts through the door as soon as she comes to visit and can be seen in every wonderful thing she does: playing, exploring, baking, gardening, and in all the many ways a grandma and grandchild connect.
Filled with adorable scenes featuring a diversity of grandmas and their grandkids, this is a book that will families can enjoy together. Grandmas will love snuggling with their grandchildren as they share their love and “magic” through cuddles, kisses, and many repeat readings.
Purchase A Grandma’s Magic at Bookshop
Purchase A Grandma’s Magic at Amazon
Charlotte Offsay was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. 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.
Charlotte is the author of The Quiet Forest, illustrated by Abi Cushman (Paula Wiseman Books, 2024), Challah Day, illustrated by Jason Kirschner (Holiday House, 2023), A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2022), The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse (Albert Whitman, 2021), and How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai (Beaming Books, 2021).
You can find Charlotte on Twitter and Tiktok at @COffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations. Learn more at charlotteoffsay.com.