Author Spotlight: Karlin Gray
Mar. 30, 2018
We are pleased to have picture book author Karlin Gray in the Author Spotlight today, with her picture book, AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2018).
Be sure to enter a giveaway for a copy!
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
In my pre-mom life, I worked for book publishers and then as a freelance copywriter. It wasn’t until I had my son that I started to write picture books. I joined a local writing center and worked on several manuscripts there. My writing instructor and classmates were so generous with their feedback and support. There’s no way that my first picture book NADIA: THE GIRL WOULD COULDN’T SIT STILL would have been published without their help. (Thank you Victoria Sherrow and friends!)
Congrats on your book, AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH! Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you. I was inspired by something my son said when he was a toddler. One day, he declared that the moth was his “favorite” insect. (He didn’t have all the reasons behind it like the boy in my book. He simply liked moths.) I thought, what if that moth was feeling blue and then overheard my son? How would that little creature feel being someone’s “favorite” instead of being shooed away? Later, I jotted down “I’m an ordinary moth, as you can plainly see...” and the story went on from there.
|© Steliyana Doneva|
You've published several picture books in a short period. Tell us about your journey to publication.
In 2013, I received my first book offer although the publisher wanted to release NADIA during the 2016 Summer Olympics. During those three years of waiting, I continued to write, workshop my manuscripts, and submit them to publishers and agents. Two of those manuscripts were sold to publishers—AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH to Sleeping Bear Press and SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER to Page Street Kids (2019). Now waiting for SERENA to be published, I continue to write, workshop, and submit...
What projects are you working on now?
I’m excited to be working on a Serena Williams biography with the new imprint Page Street Kids. And I’m always researching ideas for new nonfiction and fiction books as well as tinkering with manuscripts that live in the “reject” box.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My top three tips:
• Take a class in children’s writing so you can learn the basics. If that’s not available to you, read Harold Underdown’s book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Book. Better yet, do both!
• Treat writing like it’s your job—even if it’s your night job.
• You can’t control whether your manuscript is acquired or rejected. But you can control meeting goals like finishing a manuscript or revising a manuscript or submitting a manuscript. And if your work is rejected, YOU control your decision to give up or to persist.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I’m a big fan of productive procrastination. On days when I’m just not feeling it, I give myself permission to put my manuscript aside and, instead, do one of these activities:
• Write jacket copy for the “book”: This helps me focus in on the heart of the story and, later, the summary can be used in query letters.
• Collect back matter: Working on back matter—a timeline, an afterword, bibliography, and a recommended reading list—helps organize my thoughts on nonfiction books. And for fiction titles, searching for activities to go with the story can really get my creative juices flowing.
• Flip through magazines: I love the Texture app. Not only does it eliminate piles of magazines in my house but it’s a helpful research tool. By using the keyword search, you might find articles to use as sources for your book or the perfect publication to put on your “send review copies to” list.
• Think book swag: When I’m daydreaming that my manuscript will become a book, I like to think about promotional items to go with it. (Yes, I know I’m getting ahead of myself but it’s fun!) Writing a story about being afraid of the dark? Flashlight keychains. A story about rainbows? Sparkly rainbow tattoos. Put all your ideas in a folder marked “Marketing/Promotion” and then head back to your manuscript.
• Recline and research: Watching documentaries is my favorite way to procrastinate because it usually involves a little snack and possibly a catnap. And it works for fiction too. Writing a story where your main character is a hedgehog? You need to know what they eat, how they sound, their mannerisms, etc. Netflix and chill with some nature shows!
Where can people find you online?
Karlin Gray runs the #firstpicturebook Q&A blog at http://www.karlingray.com/blog.htm and is the author of NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL (HMH Kids), AN EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY MOTH (Sleeping Bear Press) and SERENA: THE LITTLEST SISTER (Page Street Kids, 2019).