Next up in the series celebrating fantastic local SCBWI talent, I give you the dynamic Anna Myers. Anna is my first repeat interviewee on the blog, so she’s a pro at answering in-depth questions. I’m so happy to have her back!
Anna is stopping by to tell us all about her latest book, TUMBLEWEED BABY, which was just released this month. It is her 20th book. It is also her first picture book. (Stay tuned! At the end of this post, Anna is giving away a copy of her book.) There’s quite a difference between writing picture books and writing historical fiction novels – like her story set during the Tulsa race riots in TULSA BURNING or the one where she created a fictional character that existed during the time of Abraham Lincoln in ASSASIN.
But don’t take my word for it.
Before we get to the Q&A, let’s learn more about Anna’s debut picture book. One could say that this is the tall tale of how Anna herself came into the fold of her own large family. For those of us who know Anna and have had the pleasure of watching this story’s evolution, it is such a delight to see this become a living, breathing picture book.
Published by: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Release date: October 7, 2014
Genres: Picture Book
A large, loving family in the 1930s Dust Bowl finds a “tumbleweed baby”—a wild baby—in the plains near their cozy farm home. The baby’s new siblings discover the ways she fits and doesn’t fit into the family, ultimately deciding that her wildness makes her one of them. The rhythm and voice of the text make this feel like a classic tall tale, and it pairs perfectly with the dreamy, warm art from master illustrator Charles Vess. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
The Fabulous Kirkus Review
A family gets a new addition in a tall-tale sort of way.
The Upagainstit family (say it out loud) has five children in their “falling-apart house.” Coming home from school one day, they discover a baby in a tumbleweed, and they promptly bring her home. “She’s a wild-all-over baby,” says the “littlest-of-all girl,” and she is, with hair down to her little naked ankles. Tumbleweed Baby does not take well to bathing or to sleeping, although she is very enthusiastic about dinner—messily so. The next morning, the littlest-of-all girl is still insistent that the family cannot keep her, although the “biggish boy,” the “not-so-big girl” and all the other siblings find ways that they can help to do so. When Tumbleweed Baby kisses Papa’s cheek, it’s all over but finding the right name for her. Much later, the littlest-of-all girl shares a secret that will not surprise adult readers and will probably delight the younger ones. Myers’ consistently idiosyncratic nomenclature is charming, as is her matter-of-fact tone. Vess does the most expressive hair—each Upagainstit has distinctive locks, but none more so than Tumbleweed Baby’s. As usual, his color and line are expressive and rich while staying within a gently rainbowed palette.
An adoption story, a feral child story, a foundling story, a child-of-difference story—perhaps any and all of these; certainly wise and full of delight. (Picture book. 4-8)
Valerie Lawson: What was the inspiration for this book?
Anna Myers: I was born in west Texas, and my big brother always told me that he found me in a tumbleweed.
VL: And I bet for years, you actually believed him. Aren’t older brothers wonderful?
After writing 19 novels, what was the biggest challenge of writing a picture book? How did you go about learning to write a picture book?
AM: Getting a story down to picture-book length is hard. I had some help from writing buddies during the writing. One friend told me I didn’t leave enough to the illustrator in my first draft.
Another friend gave me an idea for the ending.
VL: That was a surprising thing to learn about picture book writing, that you needed to leave part of the story out so the illustrator could fill it in.
What surprised you most working in this different medium?
AM: I am surprised how excited I am about this book. Only my very first book made me more excited. I love having my words turned into such beautiful pictures.
VL: Working in a different medium invigorated you, that’s so wonderful. We should all strive to remember to keep trying new things.
Tell us about the difference between how you imagined the illustrations and how they turned out. What did you learn about the art of illustration?
AM: If I had been choosing illustrations, I would probably have chosen bright colors and a cherub-like baby. Neither of those would have been right for the story. Charles Vess knew what colors went with the story and how the characters in a tall tale should look. I learned writers should have nothing to do with the illustrations.
VL: And what gorgeous illustrations – those southwest landscapes! Vess really knows how to evoke a mood.
Tell us about your story of the Tumbleweed Baby.
AM: On their way home from school, five siblings find a baby in a tumbleweed. The smallest girl declares that the baby is a “wild-all-over baby” and that they should
put her back. They take her home. The baby is indeed wild. The question is whether or not the family can keep such a baby. Of course, they do keep her, and the story
ends with a surprise revealed by the girl who used to be the smallest.
VL: Your use of language is just so playful and perfect for the setting, like the Upagainsit family. I love it.
What are you currently working on?
AM: I am revising Trashy Women, a book for adults about three teachers who form a garbage company to supplement their teaching income. I thought the book was
finished, but I don’t want it to be a pretty good book. I want it to be the best book I can make it.
VL: I’m so excited about TRASHY WOMEN! I’m glad you’re working on it. And it’s your first novel for adults, too. More playing with new mediums.
What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?
AM: I think my favorite book this year has been The Book Thief.
I have also read lots of books written for adults and have loved all of the books by Alice Hoffman.
VL: THE BOOK THIEF is just wonderful, isn’t it? And I do like Alice Hoffman. I’ve read about four of her adult novels. I didn’t even realize until recently that she wrote teen novels, too.
What would be your dream assignment/what would you most like to write about?
AM: I would like to write another picture book, but I have to find the right story. The idea for a picture book needs to be unique.
VL: Thank you stopping by, Anna, and for sharing TUMBLEWEED BABY with us. We wish her a very successful journey.
For those of you lucky enough to be within driving distance of the Oklahoma City area, Anna is having her book launch party, today, at Best of Books in Edmond. The fun starts at 5:30pm, where I’ve heard tale that there will be a readers’ theatre, answers to weedy questions, and refreshments with tumbleweed tea. Meet Anna and pick up an autographed copy of her book.
For those not so lucky, you can still order your own copy here:
Learn more about Anna Myers here.
Follow Anna on Facebook here.
The Book Giveaway
Anna has graciously donated a copy of TUMBLEWEED BABY to giveaway here on the blog. To enter, simply click on the link below and follow the instructions. Contest is open to everyone! Deadline for entering is Tuesday, October 28th.
ENTER HERE!!! ➤➤➤ Anna Myers Rafflecopter giveaway
CONGRATULATIONS TO STEPHANIE THEBAN!
She won the the autographed copy of Tumbleweed Baby!