Welcome, Maria! Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you. Many of my blog readers are writers in the querying trenches. We love to hear success stories. How did you go from writer to published author? Did you cold query or did you make a connection at a conference?
My experience was slightly different. I was lucky to have been selected as one of the winners of PEN New England’s Susan Bloom Discovery Award back in 2009, and I first met my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, at the awards ceremony when she introduced herself. At the time, I only had two submission-ready manuscripts, but Joan was very kind and encouraging and told me to keep in touch. I worked on my manuscripts and my craft, and by the time I approached her again to inquire about representation, I had eight submission-ready manuscripts. I signed with her in 2012. So don’t give up. Stay in touch. Work on your craft. The journey of moving from writer to author is more of a marathon than a sprint.
What does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you share your drafts with a critique group?
Every day, rain or shine, begins with a neighborhood walk with my dog, and writing companion, Becca. It’s meditative, and sometimes helps me work out story problems, or get new ideas. I then work for a while, break for a nap, followed by more writing, reading, research, answering emails (with some procrastination in between).
I have the best critique group ever!! I feel so lucky to have them! We’re an online group, and we have a private website where we exchange manuscripts on a rotating basis. We also do weekly updates to keep ourselves accountable; we share our ups and our downs. I can say that I would not be where I am today without them. They are my most trusted friends and are real critique partners in the truest sense!
I studied Human Ecology for my undergraduate degree and my very first job after college was teaching at Rutgers University’s Urban Ecology Program. Your love/interest in urban ecology definitely struck a chord with me 🙂 I absolutely love Coyote Moon and know the value in sharing a story of the wildlife co-existing in our communities. Have you had the opportunity of visit schools and libraries with this book? What has been the reaction of kids, teachers, and parents?
Thanks for your kind words, Jennifer! That sounds like the perfect first job!!
I’ve done some school visits and talks at libraries, and I just recently did a talk at a local wildlife conservancy. Both kids and adults are fascinated knowing that coyotes are our wild neighbors and that they live among us. They have an appreciation for their intelligence and adaptability. Kids think that they’re cool, and love to share the fact that they’ve seen them, or other creatures like foxes, rabbits or deer. Kids also understand that the mother coyote is hunting because she has to feed her pups. I did a story-time at a library in Charlottesville as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book, and a girl that was probably only four or five years old said, “that’s a predator.” I was pretty impressed!
What I love about urban ecology is the idea of observing the so-called “ordinary” creatures who live among us, birds like robins or black vultures, or white-tailed deer and woodchucks. These creatures are interesting and intriguing in their own right because they are our neighbors. We don’t have to go far—there are exciting things in our own backyards! I tend to write about creatures like coyotes, red-tailed hawks, bobcats and great horned owls since they have wide ranges throughout North America. That way many kid readers might have a chance of actually seeing them in their neighborhoods. I also loved discovering new creatures when we moved from Massachusetts here to Virginia: my first five-lined skink, a rat snake curled around a tree, tons of tree frogs, and a pileated woodpecker, one of my very favorite birds.
I had the opportunity to take a KidLit College course with Emily Feinberg (Roaring Brook Press) and she spoke of her love for Coyote Moon. She shared some of Bagram’s early sketches and then, of course, the beautiful final illustrations. How did you feel when you saw your story come to life? Is there a particular illustration that is your favorite?
I LOVE working with Emily! She is brilliant, thoughtful and has amazing insights! When I saw Bagram’s first sketches, I was in awe that they were so-called “sketches”—the quality and detail was astounding. I love his art for the entire book—its photo-realistic detail, its energy and dynamism. I also love the way he plays with point of view and perspective, which leads to my favorite illustration, the POUNCE! page. It looks as if the coyote is leaping right out of the book, and makes the reader feel like the prey. It’s both exciting and terrifying. I also love the coziness of the final spread, when the mother and her pups are slumbering back in their den.
Do you equally spend your time writing fiction and non-fiction? Or are you naturally drawn to one more than the other?
I like to explore the human/animal bond in both fiction and nonfiction, so it depends on the subject matter or story I want to tell. I’m a dog lover, so my fiction picture books usually include dogs, whereas my nonfiction has wild creatures. I am also a nature girl at heart, so I’m drawn to nature nonfiction to express my love of the natural world and the creatures who inhabit it. I love learning about animals and plants and ecosystems, and that tends to evolve in a more organic and poetic voice, since it’s part of who I am.
Any more fun adventures in store for Penny & Jelly? These books are so relatable to kids. My daughters love them!
Thank you, Jennifer!! I’m so happy to hear that! There are more Penny & Jelly adventures in my head, but not under contract. One can hope ☺!
THANK YOU, Maria!
For more information about Maria Gianferrari, please visit her website www.mariagianferrari.com