Author Spotlight: Michael Genhart
June 7, 2019
Today we are pleased to feature author Michael Genhart, PhD, who has authored many books for children. Read about his recent book, RAINBOW: A FIRST BOOK OF PRIDE illustrated by Anne Passchier (Magination Press, May 2019).
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I grew up in Southern California, one of seven children, in a middle class suburban community. I was a first-generation college graduate – studied psychology after falling in love with the subject matter in high school. That lead to graduate school in clinical psychology and starting a private practice in San Francisco. I met my now husband when I was in grad school, and we’ve been together 33 years. Nine years into our relationship we decided to have a family and adopted our daughter (at birth). She graduated from college last year (hip, hip, hooray!) and now teaches marine science to elementary school children.
So I came to writing for children because of being an avid reader as a kid, being a dad who loved sharing books with my daughter, being a student where the discipline of writing was essential to being successful, and being a clinician where I see children, teens, and adults who are seeking my help to understand their inner lives and better communicate their feelings and thoughts. The simple answer is I thought writing books for kids would be fun. Much of the time it is, but boy was I unprepared for how hard it actually is!!!
Congrats on your recent picture book, RAINBOW: A FIRST BOOK OF PRIDE. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you! For RAINBOW I wanted to write a board book - simple text with few words, for very young kids. And I wanted to feature rainbows (who doesn’t love a rainbow?), link them to the rainbow flag and what the different colors mean, and link all this to rainbow families (two moms/two dads). I was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the 40th anniversary of Gilbert Baker’s first Rainbow Flags, and the amazing amount of rainbow families we see everywhere. Yippee!
At the same time, I wanted to write a book that would appeal to all kids and families not just the LGBTQ+ community. The book turned into a hybrid board/picture book. And Anne Passchier’s illustrations are super cool. I really like how RAINBOW came together and hope many families will enjoy it.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
I started thinking about writing books for kids when my daughter was in high school and applying to college. I figured I would have more time on my hands, in addition to my day job, to write. Plus, it helped me feel re-connected to when she was younger and we would read together. At the time a local bookstore hosted a Saturday morning critique group where writers shared their stories. I was so nervous but went anyway. That story eventually became my first book OUCH! MOMENTS – five years later. During that time I wrote all kinds of stories.
With the help of my super talented local editor, Amy Novesky, many of these stories have become books too. Without an agent, many doors are closed to authors wishing to submit their manuscripts. So I have been extremely fortunate that Magination Press (the children’s imprint of the American Psychological Association), Little Pickle Press/Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and Cameron Kids have liked my stories enough to turn them into books. Reflecting on all this, I suppose I would say my journey has been “something in between” – but one where I’m constantly working on trying to be a better writer. Someday I hope to get there!
What projects are you working on now?
I just completed a picture book that was recently acquired. It’s a story about story-telling within families, passing on tales from one generation to the next. I’ve also recently finished a picture book about inclusion/exclusion and being self-confident in the face of discrimination. And now I’m immersing myself in the land of writing picture book bios. They require a ton of research and lots guidance from fellow authors who have mastered this craft. Thankfully, these mentors have been so generous and helpful!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
From the standpoint of writing picture books for kids, I would say start with reading a lot of picture books. Spend time in libraries and bookstores. Study the artform and craft from these other writers. Join SCBWI and attend workshops and conferences to learn about the industry, meet other writers, and to hear from editors and agents. Find a critique group. Write, write, write. Tell stories from your heart, and chose topics that matter to you. This is a tough industry. Having a thick skin, patience, and persistence also help tremendously.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I think most people would not know of my mixed ethnic heritage: Mexican/Swiss – American. Unusual blend, right? There’s so much I love about both these cultures! In fact, I have a picture book coming out in 2020 called ACCORDIONLY (Magination Press) which features a boy who brings together the two cultures of his family through the music of the accordion. Super cute!
Where can people find you online?
Come visit my website (www.michaelgenhart.com) and I’m on Facebook (@picturebookauthor) and Instagram (@michaelgenhart).
Michael Genhart, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco and Mill Valley, California. He lives with his family in Marin County.
He received his BA in psychology from the University of California, San Diego and his PhD in clinical and community psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He is the author of several picture books including: Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways (2016), Peanut Butter & Jellyous (2017), Mac & Geeeez! (2017), Cake & I Scream! (2017), So Many Smarts! (2017), and I See You (2017), all from Magination Press, as well as Love Is Love (Little Pickle Press/Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018). His newest book Rainbow: A First Book of Pride (Magination Press) releases in May 2019. Any there are more titles on the way in 2020!!
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