Author Spotlight: Charlotte Offsay
March 5, 2021
We are excited to feature author Charlotte Offsay and her debut picture book, THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP, illustrated by Katie Rewse (Albert Whitman, March 1, 2021). Be sure to enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Thank you for having me on Kidlit411! I have been a follower for years and am thrilled to be here today. I am a picture book author living in sunny Los Angeles with my supportive husband and two young children. I have always had a passion for books and for writing. As a child, I flew through summer reading lists, entered poetry contests and wrote plays that I forced relatives to act out during the holidays. I remember one winter vacation I wrote a ghost story and can still clearly recall my uncle toppling out of a closet with a sheet over his head and being quite cross as my mother and aunt rolled on the floor with laughter! (I am not sure my horror writing skills or their acting skills have progressed much since then 😉).
My passion for reading continued well into my adult years - I used to come home from nights out in college with friends and read until the early hours of the morning, and packed several picture books in my hospital bag in preparation for having my daughter Eliana. It wasn’t until Eliana was born that I finally decided to make time to pursue my dream of becoming an author. I signed up for my first introductory picture book writing class through UCLA extension and never looked back.
Congrats on your debut picture book, The Big Beach Cleanup! Tell us about the book and what inspired it.
Thank you! The Big Beach Cleanup is an ocean advocacy story which introduces young readers to the impact of human trash on the environment and demonstrates that a person is never too young or too small to inspire big change. It stars Cora, a young girl who plans to be a sandcastle-building champion, but when the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach, her plans come to a halt. Cora and Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem.
This story was inspired by my desire to write a book about the power of little hands joining together. I strongly believe that if enough hands join together we can create the change that we want to see in the world. I struggled to find a way into this story though, and it wasn’t until a morning walk with my young children that I found it. I stopped to pick up a piece of trash and toss it in a nearby trashcan, which sparked endless questions from my curious children and big conversations around pollution and doing our part to protect the world around us. That day I went home and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become The Big Beach Cleanup!
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
My publication journey has at times felt long and winding but in hindsight wasn’t all that long. After the picture book class, I took countless classes, attended webinars and conferences and became a member of SCBWI, 12x12 and Inked Voices. I joined every critique group that would have me, immersed myself in the warm and inspiring kidlit community and wrote countless manuscripts. In early 2018 I connected with my first agent via a twitter pitch party, but ultimately it wasn’t a good fit and we parted ways. At the beginning of 2019 I reentered the query trenches and signed with my current agent, Nicole Geiger with Full Circle Literary. Working with Nicole has been a dream come true and essential to my author journey. Together we have sold three picture book manuscripts to date.
What other projects are you working on?
I am thrilled to share that I have two more picture books set for publication. How to Return a Monster is a humorous how-to story about a child’s attempts to reverse course when a new baby joins the family. It is being illustrated by Rea Zhai and comes out this September with Beaming Books. A Grandma's Magic, is a picture book celebration of grandmothers and all the ways in which they are “magical.” It is being illustrated by Asa Gilliand and will be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House in Spring 2022.
What are the one or two best things you did for you career? Would you give this advice to aspiring authors?
The very best thing I did for my career was to find my critique partners. It took some courage to put myself out there and ask strangers to read my work, but thank goodness I did! My critique partners have not only offered invaluable advice and support but they have also become my closest friends, and I wouldn’t have stayed on the publishing rollercoaster without them. I highly recommend finding critique partners who are supportive and the right fit for you.
The second best thing I did was learn to say no. This might not be a struggle for everyone but for me it is a big one! I have a lot of trouble saying no but the biggest lesson I have learned is that no one else is going to prioritize my dreams and goals, and that means carving out time to work on my craft. It still makes me very uncomfortable to say no to people but I am continuing to work on it and constantly evaluating the best use of my time. I highly recommend taking a moment to reflect and evaluate, and saying no when necessary to protect your time to be creative.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I have a wide range of taste in music and it isn’t uncommon to find me blasting anything from Andrea Bocelli to techno music when I want to unwind.
Where can people find you online?
I am fairly active on social media and can be found tweeting under the name @COffsay, or recommending my favorite picture books on my Instagram account @picturebookrecommendations. You can also learn more about me or contact me via my website at http://www.charlotteoffsay.com. I look forward to connecting with everyone!
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. Her debut, The Big Beach Cleanup, will be published by Albert Whitman in spring 2021, followed by How to Return a Monster in fall 2021 from Beaming Books and A Grandma’s Magic, from Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022. Learn more about Charlotte's work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @coffsay and on Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.
a Rafflecopter giveaway