Author Spotlight: Maya Myers
|Photo credit: Ashley Sellner|
Dec. 2, 2021
We are excited to feature author Maya Myers and her debut picture book, NOT LITTLE, illustrated by Hyewon Yum. (Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, 2021), out now.
Enter to win a copy of NOT LITTLE below!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
My first career was as an elementary school teacher. I taught K, K–1, and K–5 literacy, and I designed my teaching units around books. Books were always a big part of my own life, and my kids’ lives, too. I started writing picture books around the time my youngest daughter (now 14) started school. She said the funniest things, and one day I was sitting in the next room listening to her talk to my husband, and I decided to take a shot at preserving some of her childhood by writing about it.
Congrats on your debut picture book, Not Little! Please tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Yes, this is my debut picture book, and thank you! My inspiration for this book came from a number of tiny-but-fierce kids I’ve known over the years, who seemed to make up for their “little” stature with outsized spunk and determination. One of them is my youngest daughter, who was very small as a young child, and a precocious reader. She was perpetually indignant that the school librarian wouldn’t let her check out big chapter books, and was often looked at skeptically when she would order (and polish off) a whole pizza in a restaurant. I wrote this story, in 2017, when there was a new level of vitriol and unkindness flying around in the world, and I wanted to remind my own kids and others that anyone can fight back against cruelty without being cruel.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I suppose it was in between. I was lucky enough to know Neal Porter (my editor) through my husband (author-illustrator Matt Myers), who has worked with him for years. Neal read my first story and encouraged me to keep writing, and graciously read a number of manuscripts for me over several years. The first time I showed him Not Little, he liked it but said it wasn’t quite right for him. I felt good about it anyway, so I submitted it to a couple of agents, but with no luck. About six months later, I shared a completely different type of book with Neal, and while he liked the writing, he said he just wanted a good, solid story from me. I asked if he remembered the story about the little girl who stands up against bullying, which I had recently revisited and tweaked the ending of. I still really loved it and told Neal I didn’t think I could do much better than that. He asked to see it again, and this time he said it was perfect and he wanted to publish it! I was shocked and thrilled.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m excited to have Dot and Sam coming back in a book called Not Perfect, which will be out in 2024, also from Neal Porter Books and illustrated by the wonderful Hyewon Yum. I have a couple other PBs out on submission, and I’ve been noodling on a picture-book biography for a long time, trying to figure out the best way to distill a full and productive life down to a story that will engage young readers. I’ve also been writing and revising a chapter book, which is a new challenge for me.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
If you love something, think about making a career of it! I loved books from a very young age, but it never occurred to me that I could actually be part of creating them until I was almost forty, which is when I began working in publishing (as a freelance editor before I became an author). I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I had before then, but I wouldn’t have minded an earlier start!
That advice applies to anyone, but for aspiring children’s book authors in particular, my advice is to hang out with a lot of kids. They are guaranteed to make you laugh, and when they do, take note. You never know what might spark an idea for a story someday.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I always count the ice cubes I put in my glass. Eight is my preferred number, or sixteen in a big water bottle. I don’t love math generally, but I do love numbers.
Where can people find you online?
Maya Myers writes books for kids and edits books for kids and adults. Maya is a former kindergarten teacher who loves cooking, gardening, and (surprise!) reading. Originally from Maine, she now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, author-illustrator Matt Myers, three daughters, seven chickens, and a twenty-three-pound cat.