I met Brenda Maier through our local SCBWI Oklahoma chapter, and I’ve been thrilled to watch her grow as an author. It’s such a pleasure to help her celebrate the debut of her very first picture book.
As a young child, Brenda had a grand total of six books; consequently, she spent her summers walking to the local library to get more. Now she spends her summers driving her own children to the local library, where you may find her in a corner with a stack of picture books. If she’s not there, she’s probably at a bookstore, adding to her much-larger-than-six-books collection.
Brenda lives in Oklahoma with her husband and their five children, who provide endless inspiration for more stories. She also works with gifted children at a large, local school district.
Before the interview, let’s learn more about Brenda’s debut picture book:
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
In this retelling of THE LITTLE RED HEN, Ruby wants to build a fort, but her big brothers refuse to help her. When the boys see the finished product, they really want to play in it, but it’s too late to do anything about it. Or is it?
Maier’s publisher describes this book as “one of those multi-layered gems” in this YouTube video.
Valerie Lawson: Congratulations on your debut picture book, Brenda! I’m so excited to see this book published.
What inspired the idea for this story?
Brenda Maier: Thanks for inviting me to chat, Valerie.
My children inspired this idea. A few years ago, my youngest son was four, and he was in a The Little Red Hen phase; consequently, that story was on repeat in my mind.
One day I put him down for nap and went to check on the other kids in the back yard. They’d found some boards and lattice. Guess what they’d made? So the classic tale and my own kids’ ingenuity kind of converged that day, and I began thinking about a girl building a fort instead of a hen baking bread.
VL: Isn’t it exciting how our experiences can mesh together like that?
I just love the illustrations by Sonia Sánchez. What was it like seeing your words come to life for the first time? Is that how you had imagined them?
BM: I can’t say enough about Sonia’s beautiful art. Her unique style complements the text beautifully. The details keep me looking for new things. She has such a grasp of the characters, and she brought them to life in such a way that I can’t imagine them ever being anything other than what they are now. It’s like they’re real to me, and her illustrations are a big reason for that.
VL: You work full time as a teacher and have five children at home. Talk about your writing routine. As in, where do you find the time to enjoy a moment’s peace, let alone find time to sit down and write?
BM: Kids will find you no matter where you are, and kids always come first. Therefore, I avoid this situation entirely by escaping for Panera at least a couple of times a month to write.
I write more regularly during the summer, when I can get up early and work for a few hours, but during the school year I have to be content to do the best I can. I might write before everyone wakes up, before I fall asleep at night, or even during my lunch break.
If it’s important to you, you will find a way to do it.
VL: Very true. You have to find that time to write anywhere you can.
As a debut author, what’s the best piece of advice you can pass on to fellow authors working in the pre-published phase?
BM: You should read. Reading helps you internalize so many things about stories—pacing, rhythm, page turns.
VL: What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?
BM: I don’t know if I can only pick one. At this moment, I would have to say it’s a tie between two YA novels: Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give and John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. As different as they are, I appreciated the perspectives they both made me feel privy to.
You don’t want me to get started on favorite picture books.
VL: I love that you read widely – not just picture books! That’s so important.
What’s next for you? What are you currently working on?
BM: The Little Red Fort comes out in Spanish this June. A second book, Peeping Beauty, will be released next February from Aladdin, a Simon & Schuster imprint.
Peeping Beauty is a tale of chicks who resort to creative problem solving when their sibling won’t come out of the egg. It’s not a retelling, but it does give a subtle nod to the classic Sleeping Beauty.
VL: That sounds like another great story!
Thank you so much for joining us, today, Brenda. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you!
Learn more about Brenda Maier here.
Follow Brenda on Facebook here.
Follow Brenda on Twitter here.