Blog Archive

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Interview with author, Bettina Restrepo on her book, Moose and Magpie

My interview today is with Bettina Restrepo. Her writing has appeared in Highlights for Children, Nature Friend, and Boy's Life magazines. Moose and Magpie is Bettina's first picture book. She is also currently writing young adult novels.

Your current children’s picture book is called Moose and Magpie and is called “a fiction book with a non-fiction base.” What exactly does that mean?
Sylvan-Dell’s concept is that children absorb facts best in a story rather than bulleted factoids. While a talking moose is pure fiction, the idea behind his migration or the symbiotic relationship he has with Magpie is straight fact.

The book is published by Sylvan Dell, a publisher who strictly deals with stories about nature and science. What made you decide to contact them?
My writer friend, Doris, had just finished 3 beautiful math books for them. I met the publisher at a conference and he referred me to their website where they provide their current list of needs. I designed Moose and Magpie solely for SD. It never went anywhere else. My experience in the educational market was magazine writing which helped me to think in small “bites” of info.

What sort of research did you do in preparing to write this book? Reading over 40 books about moose, wildlife blogs and just a general curiosity about these large animals.

Did you suggest the fun facts in the book?
Most of them, yes. But, the information was edited beautifully by my editor.

I see their guidelines say up to 1500 words. Do you recall the original word count for your book?
It was 800. To me, it’s still too wordy. I think I could have done a better job at 500 words!

From the time you sent in your manuscript how long was it before you got any feedback?
One month – which floored me. Donna German has a quick eye and knows what fits her list. She finalizing her list by season and I received a contract within four months.

Is this the original title?
The original title was “Why did the moose cross the road?” Moose and Magpie is so much better,

How is the writing process this book for Sylvan Dell different from writing for Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of Harper Collins)?
My SD book was very focused on format. I knew I had sixteen spreads to get from birth to migration. Systematically, it was broken down and then the story built around the concept.

In my YA novel, Illegal, I worked with the character Nora to tell one snippet of her story. The ARC is larger, the characters deeper. But, the editing process was minimal. Books nowadays must be 98% ready to go to market. My agent (who I didn’t have while I did Moose) truly helped shape Illegal.

Do you have a preferred preference for writing in a specific genre? If so, which one and why?
Yes, YA. It’s where my voice is at. I hope to return to fictional picture books in a few years when the market is better.

Do you have any other books in process with either of these publishers? Yes, my next novel is optioned at Harper Collins. They are a fabulous publisher to work with and I have been very pleased with the product we have created together.

What do you do to promote your book?
EVERYTHING. Blogs, conferences, bookstores. I’d dance down Broadway naked – but I think that wouldn’t be so good for my book career.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to submit a manuscript to Sylvan Dell or other education related publishers? Research what they have – and look for their holes. Then, understand their style and tailor your word to fit within.

Thank you for your time, Bettina. If you would like to learn more about her writing or would like to buy her books, here are some helpful links...

If you would like to read an except from her YA book,Illegal, click here
To see the the book trailer, click here.


  1. Chris, thanks for hosting me!

  2. It was a pleasure. I always love what I learn in these interviews.

  3. Great interview! Moose and Magpie looks adorable. I've always loved moose. I lived in Maine for a year and looked everywhere for one, but alas, I never even caught a glimpse.

    I'm a new follower from Book Blogs, by the way.