Author Spotlight: Madelyn Rosenberg
Jan. 24, 2020
We are excited to feature picture book author Madelyn Rosenberg and her new book, CYCLOPS OF CENTRAL PARK illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov (Penguin, Feb. 11, 2020). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, at a time when kids were allowed to roam around for hours. As long as they came home in time for dinner, their parents assumed they were okay. In fifth grade, I got an assignment to write a children’s book and at that moment, in the glory of making up a story about a racoon named Randy and a wardrobe malfunction at a Halloween party, I decided I wanted to be a children’s book writer. I became a journalist first, and I learned how to tell stories about real people before I took a chance on making up stories of my own.
|art © Victoria Tentler-Krylov
Congrats on your forthcoming picture book, CYCLOPS OF CENTRAL PARK. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you! This is a story of an anxious Cyclops who lives in a cozy cave in Central Park and takes care of his sheep. When one of them (Eugene) takes off to explore, Cyclops is forced to leave his cave to try to find him. The story has its roots in my anxiety. (And in my father’s anxiety before that.)
I’ve dealt with anxiety on and off since college. There are also periods of time when I didn’t deal with it, when I spent time at home with a churning stomach and a chest that felt like it was full of spiderwebs. I think a lot of writers have anxiety. Maybe it’s because we like to examine every scenario, which means that for every possible good outcome, there’s a fire waiting to break out, a helicopter that’s about to fall out of the sky, a sinkhole at the end of the driveway.
Anyway, my son was reading The Odyssey and I would pick up his book and look at different parts of it. Polyphemus jumped out at me. I liked the idea of exploring a character who was big and strong but who also feared, if not his own shadow, than other equally nonthreatening things. Like grass.
Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. She added so many layers and I get goosebumps every time I look through this book. Literal goosebumps. There is always something new to see.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It took a few years of rejection, frustration, and a landed-then-cancelled picture-book deal before I published my first book, which was technically an advertisement — a rhyming, counting picture book about fruits and vegetables without my name anywhere on it. If you’d asked me this question then, I would have said “long and winding.” It felt like I’d never see a book in print with my name on it. But answering that question now, ten books later, I guess my path was somewhere in the middle. (I’m just hoping that my writing career will be long and winding.)
What projects are you working on now?
I’m usually working on one long thing and one short thing at the same time, and that’s the case now. I did some substitute teaching last year as a reading specialist, so I’ve been playing around with some early readers.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. It is so hard in the face of rejection (which doesn’t go away, by the way) to keep telling yourself you can make it. But that’s what you have to do.
And to help you keep going, it is essential for you to find a group of people who understand what you’re going through and are there in the trenches with you. This community is a great example, but an in-the-flesh critique group is also key — a group of people who will encourage you, who will be honest with you, who will hold you accountable and who will make you a better writer. After that, I’d just suggest the same three things I suggest to students when I speak:
And keep a writing notebook where you write down ALL OF THE THINGS, from story ideas to first sentences to a single, perfect word.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I love get-rich quick schemes and always have a long list of them. (This answer would be a lot more interesting if I told you some of the things that are on that list, but I’m being irrationally closed-mouthed in case I actually decide to follow through on some of them. I’ll give you The Burger Koozie. Also, my line of hair products for bald people. (“Bare products.” Good, right?)
Where can people find you online?
Thanks so much for having me. Whether you have five minutes or eight hours, I’m wishing all of you a great writing/illustrating day.
Madelyn Rosenberg spent more than a decade at a daily newspaper writing stories about colorful, real-life characters. These days she enjoys making up characters of her own. She's the author of 11 books for children including Take Care, This is Just a Test (co-written with Wendy Wan-Long Shang), How to Behave at a Dog Show, and the Nanny X series. Madelyn lives in Virginia with her family. Visit her online at http://www.madelynrosenberg.com.
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