In anticipation of tonights ‘Virtual Book Tour’ of ‘Right This Instant’ I’m releasing my Q & A with Christine Alemshah. Christine is the author of this adorable story and I have been so lucky to get to know her through email. One thing about the publisher, MeeGenious, that I love is that they let me choose the stories I illustrate from a short accumulation that they think may fit my work. When I read this story I knew it was going to be a winner. Christine’s work is wonderful and it’s been so great working with her.
Q: When did you discover you wanted to write children’s stories and what was the catalyst?
A: I was in third grade when I found out it was possible to create my own books. My teacher taught me how to write, illustrate, and bind my own picture books. Ever since that time I knew I would want to publish books some day. In college, I took a course called ‘Writing Books for Children’ that introduced me to all the different genres of children’s books. Still, picture books stood out as my favorite. That was back in 2001. It wasn’t until my 30th birthday that I had an epiphany; it was time to get serious about my writing dreams. It feels great to be pursuing them, and I hope to encourage others to do the same.
Q: What was the first story you ever had published and who published it?
A: My first story ever published was ‘Max and Digby’s Big Day’ for Stories for Children Magazine. That was a wonderful experience. They regularly accepted stories from new writers and were very diligent about showing us how the editorial process works. My experiences with them were invaluable.
Q: We found each other on the SCBWI website! How long have you been a member of SCBWI and have you found it valuable?
A: I have been a member of SCBWI since 2010. I found out about SCBWI through children’s author, Merrily Kutner. She was leading a session at the Central Coast Writer’s Conference. She mentioned that anyone who wanted to get serious about writing for children should join. And that was exactly what I wanted to do, so I joined. Almost every connection I have made has been through SCBWI — education, local conferences, friendships, and my critique group.
Q: You mentioned to me that you have completed 12x12x12. (An author challenge of writing 12 picture book manuscripts a year. A manuscript a month!) Did you find that useful and would you do it again?
A: Yes! Most definitely! I completed 12 drafts last year, one of which I am in the revisions process with and am hoping will be my next published work!
Q: Was ‘Right This Instant’ a 12x12x12 manuscript?
A: Actually it was not. It was written in 2011 before I joined the challenge. It was revised several times before being picked up by a publisher. I think revision is an essential part of the writing process.
Q: Are there any other manuscripts from the 12x12x12 challenge that you feel may be picked-up soon?
A: I have one out of the twelve that I feel is particularly close, and two others that need a bit more revising.
Q: Your website and blog are very well put together. They used to be separate, right? What benefits are you expecting to have them together and have you noticed any advantages already?
A: I really enjoy using the WordPress blogging platform as I am familiar with the backend and know how to navigate it pretty well. I feel I can better promote the site when everything is neat and tidy in one place. I am a picture book writer; Concise could be my middle name.
Q: Are there any other websites besides scbwi.org that you use to keep in touch with colleagues and promote to publishers? Facebook? Jacketflap?
Q: Do you belong to any critique groups and if so do you find them useful? Also, how does yours work?
A: Yes. I am a member of the Newport Beach SCBWI Critique Group. We hold monthly meetings. Being part of a critique group has helped me grow in many ways. I’m better able to identify my writing weaknesses, so I don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over, and I’ve improved my ability to provide constructive feedback to others. I love seeing how everyone’s projects progress over time. ‘Right This Instant’ was critiqued several times by the group.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on a character-driven picture book featuring Emilene, a spirited girl who tends to challenge conventional ideas, in this case being how the tooth fairy delivers treats for lost teeth.
Q: How often do you write? Do you have a schedule or do you write when inspiration strikes?
A: In the summer, I try to write every morning. During the school year, I fit it in whenever possible. I often have napkins or receipts stuffed in my purse with notes on them. And yes, I sometimes have to stop everything and write when inspiration strikes.
Q: Do you have any mentors? Or authors you really admire and wish to meet someday?
A: I have been fortunate enough to meet both of the current Picture Book Authors who influence me the most at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference, Jon Sciescka and Deborah Underwood. They were both kind and encouraging. Others I hope to meet someday include: Pam Calvert, Tammi Sauer, and Mo Willems.
Q: Favorite animal :) ?
A:I love English Bull Terriers … and turtles.