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.
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.