How did you come up with the idea of your latest book, Goodnight, Manger?
As a mom, I have tender memories of putting my babies to bed and how hard it was when they were overstimulated or overtired. I also have memories of my sweet daughter playing with the little Baby Jesus that was part of our nativity set. She’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. But, he was human (and God) and so he must have cried. With those sweet sparks of inspiration, I was ready to write my Christmas bedtime story.
Could you give me a short synopsis on the story for my readers?
It’s bedtime for baby Jesus, but who knew a stable could be so loud? Mama, Papa, and all of the animals try to lull the baby to sleep, but between itchy hay, angels singing, and three kings bearing gifts, it’s too noisy. Cuddle up as everyone tries working together to shepherd Baby into peaceful dreams.
What made you decide to do a Christmas themed book?
I wanted to write a fun Christmas-themed book that would center on Christ, rather than Santa, in what has become a very secularized Christmas season. I was not born into a Christian home, so I have a heart for families like mine - and wanted to write a Christmas story that would be fun for anyone to read, but which would point them in the direction of Jesus - the real gift of Christmas.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
I love Christmas! Our family’s favorite traditions include: picking out the tree for Christmas, making homemade ornaments, baking cookies, reading a snippet of the Christmas story each evening during advent, and caroling in our neighborhood on Christmas Eve (after the children’s service).
My son, who is now 15, also likes to keep his eyes pried open as best he can so that he and I can stroll into down at 10:30 for the candlelight service that gets out at midnight. I’m not a night person, but I love that he wants to go to church TWICE on Christmas Eve and I cherish this extra mother/son bonding time. It’s quiet as we walk into town and part of our emerging tradition is talking about our faith and God’s wondrous gift of a Savior.
I am always working on new picture books and I have several at various stages of completion. I’ll leave the details up to your imagination, but let’s just say that some of my new characters include a mouse, some cheese, a lamb, and a hedgehog. Stay tuned for updates.
Any special awards or achievements you’d like to mention?
My first picture book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, also illustrated by Jane Chapman and published by Zonderkidz, was a 2015 Christian Book Award® finalist. That was exciting. =)
What’s the best writing tip you’ve learned or been given that you’d like to share?
One of the best tips I’ve learned as a writer of rhyme is to make sure that I have someone else read my pieces out loud. This is an effective way to ensure that the piece I’m working on reads smoothly. It’s a good check against forced rhymes or meter that work only because of faulty pronunciation, misplaced emphasis on a syllable, inverted word order etc.
What do you know now about writing and publishing you wish you had learned sooner?
I wish I had learned sooner that you can’t rush the writing process. Looking back at the earliest manuscripts I sent publishers, it’s no surprise they were rejected! I wrote and sent them off much too quickly. Good, multi-layered, rich writing takes time and more rounds of revision than you ever imagined.
I spent TWO years revisiting and revising my first book, Goodnight, Ark before it was fit to float and many, many months revising Goodnight, Manger. That might surprise readers, but I believe that the time and effort spent revising was the key to capturing Zonderkidz’s interest (and hopefully readers’ interests as well).
Any last words or tips?
I’ve found that the long, hard journey to publication just wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my parting bit of advice today is to find a writing buddy or two to join you on the journey! I think you will find, as I have, that it makes all the difference. Happy writing!
As a special kick-off to the holiday season, Zonderkidz is offering a hardcover copy of Goodnight, Manger - fresh off the press to one lucky winner who will be chosen in a random drawing from all entries. To be eligible, just sign up as a follower (click on "join this site" which is located on the left sidebar across from this text) The winner will be required to provide a physical address, not a P.O. Box address for the book delivery. U.S. residents only. Contest ends December 4th and the winner will be announced on this blog December 8th.
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kppv9AMwJrA
Links to the blog tour for Goodnight, Ark