Author Spotlight: Cathy Ballou Mealey



Mar. 29, 2019

We are excited to feature picture book author Cathy Ballou Mealey and her debut book, WHEN A TREE GROWS, illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska (Sterling Children's Books, April 2, 2019). Enter to win a copy!




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

I wrote my first picture book in 2010 to enter the Cheerios “Spoonful of Stories” contest. Even though “Ozzie the Oyster” was definitely not ready for publication, my prize was discovering a passion for the craft of picture book writing. After attending conferences, classes and workshops, I joined SCBWI, the 2012 12X12 Challenge and two critique groups. I have been writing, revising and studying ever since!



Congrats on your debut PB, WHEN A TREE GROWS. Tell us about it and what inspired you?

WHEN A TREE GROWS is a rollicking read-aloud that follows a zany chain of events triggered by a broken tree, a cranky Bear, a nut-loving Squirrel and his loyal friend Moose. 

My inspiration arrived during a woodsy family hike. As we trudged along, enjoying nature, we heard a distant creaky Crash! Was it a tree? An animal? We froze, and after a long silence, hiked on. I continued to wonder: What if that sound had scared a bear or frightened a deer?

Building on that “OR” question, I framed a wacky story with two opposite possible outcomes, one rather expected and one funny and unexpected. Readers will find the “OR” spotlighted on the bottom corner of each recto page with a clever curled paper art effect.



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

As a picture book, TREE grew from the seedling of an idea to an actual bound, printed book in three years, four months from the date I accepted the offer from Sterling Children’s Books. I’m so grateful to illustrator Kasia Nowowiejska for her dedicated efforts to make our book the very best it could be.

The writer’s road can seem like a long and windy one. Persistence is key! For me new story ideas are always waiting just over the horizon. (channels inner Winter Warlock and hums "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" from Santa Claus is Coming to Town).



What projects are you working on now?

Cheering for and promoting the amazing books from my fellow debut picture book writers and illustrators in the Notable19’sand Epic18’s groups. Such incredible talent and wonderful stories for young readers are all around us.

Next up for me is a still-secret picture book with an amazing publisher in Canada. A sloth and a squirrel are involved! Look for an announcement soon, and a book sometime in 2021!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you'd give to aspiring authors?

Yes! Never leave home without your library card.

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

Just one? I can fold a king-sized fitted sheet to crisp-cornered, shelf-square perfection.

Where can people find you online?

Please come connect and say hello! Tell me if you’ve seen a Moose in real life, or if you need a recipe for cardamom crème cupcakes.
Website: https://cathyballoumealey.wordpress.com/about/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatBallouMealey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cathy.mealey

Cathy Ballou Mealey lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a moose to appear. Her favorite nut is the hazelnut and her favorite cupcake is cardamom crème.

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56 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this one! Thanks for the interview!

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    1. Thank you Mona! You live in Moose country, don't you? Have you seen any?

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  2. I left home without my library card yesterday! My son and I felt bereft! Unmoored! (All ended well when we returned home to find it and made a later Storytime). Whew.
    Congrats on your book, Cathy! the idea of Or... is awesome. My kids would love this!

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    1. Thank you Candice! Having library card in hand is the way to go, right?

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  3. I love a great story and this seems to be one. I already have its place on my shelf :)

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    1. Oh, Virginia - My kids love having "options" so I hear "OR" a lot!

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  5. Cathy, this looks like such a fun book! Congrats.

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    1. Thank you Kathy-with-a-K! I hope you'll enjoy it!

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  6. What a wonderful book from another Sterling Author! Can't wait to get my copy!

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    1. Super Sterling Sibs stick together! Thanks for your cheers Lynne Marie!

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  7. This book looks adorable - love the story concept and can’t wait to read it. The art looks lovely, too! Congrats!

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    1. Thanks for reading the post. I hope you enjoy the book too!

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    1. Anitha - thank you! Moose and Squirrel thank you too!

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  9. Your book sounds like so much fun, Cathy!!! I can't wait to read it. Congratulations!!!

    BTW, will you come fold my fitted sheets?

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    1. Penny - thank you! I'll certainly fold your sheets if you read me some of your wonderful poetry while I do so! ;)

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  10. Can't wait to read your book!! I remember entering that Cheerios contest, too! I think it was the same year. :)

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    1. Thanks Diana! I was a very *green* rhymer then. I'll bet yours was fabulous! Do you still have it?

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  11. The sheet-folding and book-writing are both admirable accomplishments!

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    1. Sheet folding is a skill best learned with a long outdoor laundry line John. And I have zero spatial ability - this is a weird splinter skill!Hope you like the book.

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  12. I love nature stories and the concept of this book! Can't wait to read it! Also my library card is always in my phone case :)
    Congratulations on your book and many well wishes as you keep writing

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    1. What a smart space for your library card Fawn. Have you patented that idea? Thanks for your good wishes!

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  13. This looks like a fun new #PB that kids will love OR love! Congratulations on your debut!

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    1. Thank you! Ha! I hope they *do* love OR adore OR enjoy it! :)

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  14. I love the Or...and thanks for talking up libraries!

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    1. Oh libraries - how I love them, their contents, and the fabulous people who works there! Truly a lifeline to building commuity and connections. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Lydia! My kids love having options so I hear "or" a lot!

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  16. I love this fun idea! Thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it Danielle! I hope you like the book too!

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    1. Thank you Aileen! Those are two of my favorite critters for sure.

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  18. Love this idea and can’t wait to read your debut! I title-dropped it a couple times at Big Sur when the idea of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” picture book came up! Are you offering lessons on fitted sheet folding?

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    1. OMG - I was 'title-dropped'? I feel as though I've skipped a level in book-writing somehow. THANK YOU Amanda! :D

      Here's my tip for learning fitted sheet folding: start by line-drying your sheets and fold by walking one end to the other. OK - I use a dryer now but the clothesline was one of my chores as a kid!

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  19. Cute book and nice interview.
    Cathy, you need to show me how to fold those sheets. ;)
    Best wishes on your new book. :)
    Rosie

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    1. Hi Rosie - thank you! I can teach you my sheet folding techniques for sure! Do you have a clothesline? ;)

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  20. Such a cute book! Can't wait to read it! Best wishes!

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    1. Thank you Angie! Moose and Squirrel thank you too!

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  21. What a fun story and the illustrations are darling! Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Thank you Tanya. I agree - Kasia created a very cute forest of creatures!

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  22. What a great post! Happy Book Birthday Eve, Cathy!!

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    1. Thank you Sheri! Can't wait for your debut to launch on May 7th: COW HIDE AND SEEK!

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  23. A creative page turning idea. Looks like a fun read. Congrats on this debut and your upcoming books, too.

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    1. Thank you Marty - and CONGRATULATIONS on winning the signed copy. It is winging its way to you as I type!

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  24. Great interview Cathy -- I loved the sneak peek about the folded OR on each page! How FUN!!! Looking forward to reading this one!

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    1. Thank you Kelly! As one of the local '24 carrots' I hope to see you soon at a kidlit event!

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  25. I am really excited for you Cathy! However, your brag about folding fitted sheets have left me fuming with jealousy!

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    1. Humble brag, right? And I have zero spatial ability so it is a total splinter skill and useless unless I get a job at Bed, Bath and Beyond!

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  26. This looks like such a fun book! Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Thanks Karan! I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment!

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  27. What a fantastic looking cover. We love books with animals.

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    1. Thank Linda! I love the cover too - Moose is such a character.

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