Feb. 19, 2016
Today we present debut picture book author Julie Falatko, whose book, SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK)! illustrated by Tim Miller was just released this week.Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I’m one of those people who has always been surrounded by books. A happy childhood weekend would be building a book fort and reading my way through it. I’ve always loved writing, too. I have lots of childhood journals filled with stories.
It took me a while to realize that writing children’s books was a real thing, though. I thought all the authors of my favorite books were dead, or fairies. It never occurred to me that they were real, regular, alive, people. I majored in English and got my library degree, and then realized that I’d been circling around what I really wanted to do, which was to write.
Congrats on your debut, SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK)! It's gotten such great reviews and advanced buzz. Can you tell us about it and how you came to write it?
2012 was the year when I finally got serious about writing. I was focusing on writing as much as I could, and reading as much as I could. It was the year I started thinking about stories all the time. It was only in that intense environment that I could have an experience like I did – where the idea and all the words for a story came in one big whomp. It was exhilarating, and I’d love to have that happen again sometime.
Why an alligator?
I knew the main character had to be a potentially-menacing animal, and an alligator seemed like a good fit. Plus I love how “Snappsy” sounds like the name of an alligator in a cutesy overly-sincere storybook.
Your second picture book was announced last fall, THE SOCIETY FOR UNDERREPRESENTED ANIMALS. It sounds so fun, and also has a meta angle. Is that something of a niche that you are developing? (or is it that you are just funny and smart?)
Thanks! I hope you like it! The process for writing THE SOCIETY FOR UNDERREPRESENTED ANIMALS was much longer and more involved than for writing SNAPPSY, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. While I do love meta books, it’s not my niche. I try to make my books focus on fun characters in funny situations, and it just worked out that those first two are meta.
Has your writing journey been long and arduous? Short and fortuitous? Some other combination of snappy adjectives?
I think my writing journey has been long and fortuitous. I’ve written my entire life, and I’ve always had a great time doing it. I’m not saying writing is easy for me – it’s not – but it has consistently been delightful.
What are you working on now?
I am working on more picture books, and have been playing around with longer books too – some middle grade, and a YA.
What has surprised you most about the publishing process after the contract was signed?
The feeling of helplessness while my book was waiting for an illustrator. After working so hard on the text, to push it out over the abyss (prospective illustrators live in an abyss, right?) was scary. I’m not generally someone who wants to control every part of the process, and so I worked on writing other things, but it was an odd feeling knowing my manuscript was making the rounds, trying to find the perfect collaborator. (It was definitely worth the wait.) I think I handled this feeling much better for my second book, because I knew what to expect.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part is when you work really long and hard on something, and then realize it’s just not working, at all. It’s part of the process, but it’s always painful to shut those words in a drawer forever.
What is the easiest part?
Coming up with ideas. I have so many ideas, and so many things I want to write! When people come up to me and say they have an idea for a book to write, it always cracks me up. If you have an idea, you should write it! The idea is the easy part – it’s the writing that’s hard.
What advice would you give to aspiring picture book authors?
Keep working. Keep at it. This is a slow business, and you’ll need a lot of patience, but that’s actually a good thing. It gives you time to become a really great writer. No one needs your manuscript in the next half hour. Take your time and make it amazing. We’re so lucky to be writing right now, when there are so many resources online, so many people you can connect with who know exactly what you’re going through. You don’t need to worry about how to find an agent or how to write a query letter, because all that information is out there. Write a lot, read a lot, find your people, and be kind.
What is something most people don't know about you?
When I was little, since I didn’t know “children’s book author” was a real job, I wanted to be an actor. I acted in plays all through high school and college, and miss being on a stage.
Where can people find you online?
My website is juliefalatko.com, I’m on Twitter @JulieFalatko, and on Facebook at JulieFalatkoAuthor.
When Julie Falatko was 8 years old, she wrote her first story, about a family of ornery foghorns. Making things up was so much fun, she knew she had to figure out how to do that forever. She went on to earn an English degree and a library degree, and now she mostly writes stories about misunderstood animals trying to find their place in the world. Julie lives in Maine with her husband, four children, and big-eared chiweenie dog, where she maintains a Little Free Library in front of her house. She loves all food that starts with the letter B. Yes, even broccoli. Visit her at www.juliefalatko.com.