Author Spotlight: Danielle Davis


July 28, 2017


Today we are excited to feature author Danielle Davis and her debut middle grade book, ZINNIA AND THE BEES (Capstone Young Readers). Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of this interview to win a copy of it!





Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.

I’ve taught middle school and community college English and have done some blogging and editing and once worked in education at an environmental nonprofit. In terms of writing, I went to graduate school almost fifteen years ago to give myself a chance to learn and absorb and practice for the first time and then wrote short stories, eventually publishing a couple a year.

I fell in love with picture books as an adult when I read GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY by Allen Say. And picture books eventually led me to middle grade novels, which I also fell in love with. In fact, I started ZINNIA as a novella for grownups and when I converted it into something aimed at younger readers, it clicked! Writing for kids is my sweet spot, my writing home, my favorite thing, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity now to share stories with them.

Congratulations on your debut MG, ZINNIA AND THE BEES! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.


Thank you so much! The book is about a twelve year-old knitter and yarn bomber and the colony of honeybees who mistakes her hair for a hive and lands on her head. Both Zinnia and the bees (as a collective character) get to tell their story in alternating perspectives. The story is, at its heart, about searching for home—the bees for a literal hive-home and Zinnia for a home in herself and others. Also, it’s funny (I hope).

I was first inspired by an image my husband shared with me of someone with bees around their head as a kind of metaphor for anxiety (something he was watching me go through in a severe way at the time). Plus, the disappearance of bees was in the news a lot, DIY culture was going strong, and I was interested in how Zinnia, this person with bees on her head, would cope with such a strange situation, as well as the other internal and external hurdles in her path. How would Zinnia begin to feel at ease with herself and the people around her, regardless of how strange or full of hurdles life might be?

Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?

I suppose long and windy is the accurate answer, though I think that a ten-year plus path is not too unusual. That time was spent reading and practicing and learning and writing a bunch, a chunk of which I’ve since discarded. And a lot of it was actually spent on and off on this story because it’s one I just couldn’t let go of, one I kept returning to and revising and not giving up on year after year despite those pesky and inevitable self doubts. (Persistence is a big part of this pursuit.)

You are a sought after critique-r of picture book manuscripts (Kidlit411 highly recommends your critique service). What are the main problems you see of the manuscripts you critique?


That’s very kind of you. What I find myself writing about pretty consistently in picture book critiques is theme, something I learned a lot about from the wonderful Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer. 

I think that by refining the takeaway or heart of a picture book manuscript (any manuscript) that will by extension inevitably shape the action, with the big picture informing each and every step. It, of course, also helps when pitching a story, but more importantly, it constantly reminds you of why the story matters to you, what sparked it, and why you want to share it with kid readers. So, yeah, I think finding the heart of a manuscript, the thing that makes it tick and gives it impact, is really important for revision—even for a lighthearted story.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve recently turned in a chapter book manuscript to my agent. It felt like something more manageable than a novel that I could have fun with during this debut year of editing and marketing. I’ve also got another middle grade on the backburner, which is pretty daunting and more serious in nature, and a stack of picture book manuscripts, ever and always on my computer’s desktop.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I have two conflicting pieces of advice. 

One is that the process will take the time it takes. Your path will be your path, and you can’t force it, so focus on tending the garden of your imagination and craft. Wait. 

The other is to really advocate for your work when you feel ready to do so. If it’s a project you believe in, believe that it matters and that it deserves a chance and take action around that. Don’t wait. 

(See? I said they’d be conflicting.) 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I never properly learned to ride a bike.


Where can people find you online?


Picture Book Blog: http://thispicturebooklife.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15898105.Danielle_Davis

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Danielle Davis grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong and now lives in Los Angeles. She's got an M.A. in literature and creative writing and a number of her short stories have been published in literary magazines. She's also had the privilege of teaching English to middle school and community college students. Now, she reads and writes and enjoys volunteering with literacy organizations. Her blog is This Picture Book Life.



36 comments:

  1. This books sounds so fun! And I love the advice about finding the heart of your manuscript. Thanks Danielle!

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  2. I also appreciated the reminder about the importance of finding the heart/the big theme of a manuscript.

    Look forward to reading the book.

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  3. Wonderful interview! Congratulations, Danielle! I can't wait to read your book!

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  4. I always love reading/hearing about the journey to publication. Thanks for the tip! I can't wait to read your book!

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  5. I need these tips right now. Thank you.

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    1. My pleasure. All best to you on the journey.

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  6. Danielle's PB critiques are the best! Can't wait to read Zinnia. :)

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  7. I can't wait to get my hands on this! Danielle is the best.

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  8. You should probably hope I don't win this because you'll lose a sale. Been so excited to get my hands on this and rad something of your for a change after all you wonderful critiques of my stories. Congrats!

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  9. Congratulations, Danielle! I'm so excited for you and to read your book!

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  10. I am excited to read this book! Danielle has done some awesome critiques for me, and they are wonderful. Congrats, Danielle!

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  11. Congrats, Danielle! I love the gardening metaphor--so apt, and very zen. Looking forward to reading Zinnia :)

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  12. Somehow hair and honey and bees sound like a recipe for...disaster! Looks like a good book!

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  13. What a wonderful interview— I will totally take these words to heart! And I can't wait to get my own copy of Zinnia, when it's released next week!

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    1. Many many thanks! And best of luck to you.

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  14. Congratulations! This looks like a wonderful book! Love that it includes bes. :)

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  15. What an interesting premise. My fear of bees won't keep me away from reading this fun sounding tale.

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  16. Looking forward to reading this! Congrats on turning an idea into reality! Cheers!

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    1. Thank you so much, Jilanne. Cheers!

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  17. What a unique premise! Can't wait to read it.

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  18. Danielle is a plot whisperer...her critiques are spot on. Congrats on the release. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Oh goodness, thank you Keila!! All my best.

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  19. I love how you got the idea for this book and I also love your name! Congrats on your book--this is my dream too.

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  20. I can't think of a finer person to achieve this success. Her PB critique was incredible. Teachers should incorporate this book in lesson plans and learning centers. The possibilities are endless.

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  21. Thank you so much for having me in the spotlight! What a total treat!

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