Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Author Interview + Giveaway: Rena Grossman

Today I have the extreme pleasure of introducing you to an author I met, via Twitter.  I just love all the connections I have made there.  Please help me welcome, Rena Grossman, author of the Babies Everywhere Series from Star Bright Books.  Rena also works in the Editorial Department at Star Bright Books.

Write For A Reader (WFAR):  When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Rena Grossman (RG):  Reading and writing has always been very magical for me, and I would say that I fell in love with the tactile experience of reading really early on. My parents have this fabulous picture of me at around age six, asleep amidst piles and piles of books on my bedroom floor; it was like a fortress of stories protecting my dreams! I wrote simple stories for loved ones as holiday gifts, and bound them myself. I even included fake Library of Congress CIP data on my copyright page! I was a natural.

WFAR:  Would you describe your writing atmosphere to the readers? Where do you work, when, music, snacks, etc.

RG:  I have the great fortune of creating books for a living! I am an editor for a wonderful children’s book publisher, Star Bright Books, so much of the work that was done on these three titles was done at my cluttered desk in our office. On my desk you will find too much paper, manuscripts I have yet to read, an empty ball jar (I drink water out of ball jars), post-it notes, spare keys, and fragments of illustrations that I really like.

I do much of my personal writing on the subway. The rocking motion of the moving cars and snippets of conversations set my creative energy alight.

WFAR:  What do you like to do when you are not writing?

RG:  I recently moved back to NYC from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, so much of what I do in the city now involves relaxation e.g. yoga, meditation, and dance. I love to paint and collage. I have become a woods woman and try to make it upstate as often as I can to breathe in forest air. Green leafy veggies make my stomach happy. I spend all too much time having conversations with my cats, Adzuki and Pinto. I often read them what I write but there isn’t much variation in their feedback.

WFAR:  What are some of your favorites? Author, illustrator, book, color, or any others you’d like to share.

RG:  Too many favorites! For contemporary children’s books I would have to say anything by Lane Smith, John Muth, Oliver Jeffers, and Carin Berger. My all-time favorite is Vera B. Williams. I love post-colonial literature, and “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry really moved me. I love anything about India and food security. “Garbageland” was also a really fascinating journey that follows our trash from can to landfill.

WFAR:  What do you find is the greatest challenge in writing children’s books? Why?

RG:  Again, I have the great fortune of working for a publisher so I have a lot of great support as a creator. I would say that the greatest challenge for an independent press is visibility. The big houses are like marketing mammoths, but we kick and scream just as loud as they do to be heard.

WFAR:  What do you love most about being a children’s book author?

RG:  I love children’s books, and I am always weaving my own story as I read someone else’s. This past week I read “My Daddy is a Pretzel” and I was lost in many funny tangents. So many of them are too good not to share. Alas, a story is born.

WFAR:  What’s in the works for you next?

RG:  I had a run-in with a possum the other night, and a friend took a picture of it for me as a memento. You know the ecosystem is out of sorts when a possum is scurrying around in Queens! For those of you who have never seen a possum, think enormous rat. They are really ghastly creatures, but the more I look at the picture, the more I want to write a story about possums. They are almost like caricatures of rats, and that makes me laugh.

I am also really environmentally conscious and think that we need more environmentally-focused books for kids that are engaging but not dogmatic. When I have a moment to breathe I plan to collaborate with a friend on some ideas I have.

WFAR:  Can you give us the back story behind one of your books. Why did you write it or where did the idea come from?

RG:  In 2004 I moved to Ithaca, NY to volunteer as an Americorps* VISTA member. I worked on educational equity programming in the Ithaca City School District. I partnered with many literacy organizations in the district -- after-school programs, daycare centers, public-schools—to increase family literacy and to encourage a love of reading for economically disadvantaged youth. Part of my job was to buy large qualities of books for the children at these sites, and many of the site leaders decided to let the children pick their own books! Undoubtedly, most of the children were of color and wanted books with photographs and characters that looked like them. We didn’t find enough books with children from all over the world, and this experience inspired “Families” and “Carry Me.” I plan to do a few more books in the Babies Everywhere series to compliment these two titles, so keep an eye out for them!

WFAR:  What is your favorite piece or book that you have written?

RG:  I did all of the photo research for these board books, and I would have to say that “Carry Me” was the most fun. I was able to witness the beauty of over twenty countries without having to leave NYC. I hope that some day I will be able to visit many of the places this book took me to.

WFAR:  Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

RG:  In addition to my two cats, I have 900 composting worms in my apartment that break down my food scraps so I can cut down on landfill-bound trash. I know what you are saying – worms? Eeeew! They are actually really amazing. These worms can consume up to three times their body weight in a week!

WFAR:  Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

RG:  I am open to manuscript or book ideas that you may wish to run by an editor before taking the submissions plunge.

Thank you so much, Rena, for allowing me to interview you for Children's Book Week.


Rena has been gracious enough to offer one copy of each of her books for my readers today.  These are all board books that would be great for baby shower gifts, anyone with a new baby or toddler, or the preschool classroom.  So, there will be 3 winners.  I have included a brief synopsis of each book below.  If you rest your cursor over the blue box next to the title, you will see a picture of the book.  For some reason, Blogger will not let me upload pictures today, so I apologize.  I will put them up tonight if the problem is fixed.  You will need to leave a comment as to which book you would like to have.  You may enter for all 3 if you'd like.  As always, you earn extra entries by following, tweeting, and blogging about the giveaway.  I will close the giveaway a week from today, Tuesday May 19.  Winners will be emailed and posted on this blog on Wednesday, May 20.  Please leave your email address in your comment.  Open to US/Canada addresses only.

Whether tucked in a blanket, peeking out of a basket, riding in a backpack, or wrapped in a parent’s arms, babies worldwide are carried in unique ways. The simple, rhyming text and beautiful photographs in this board book introduce children to the ways their global neighbors travel.

Human and animal families care for their young in similar ways. They go on walks, share food, go swimming, cuddle, and of course, give plenty of hugs and kisses. Explore the similarities in this charming photographic book. Vibrant images of babies and the families that love them make this delightful book perfect for families everywhere!

Children will have fun learning the names and colors of nutritious fruits and vegetables shown on each page of this board book. The large, bright photographs teach children about healthy, delectable foods.


Michele P. said...

I have a new grandchild due this month and I would love to have some books on hand for him to look at and I am sure his 7 yr old aunt who loves reading would be his willing teacher, lol! Any of these books would be fine, I love colorful and fun books for little ones!

micaela6955 at msn dot com

Unknown said...

Here books a very colorful and I would enjoy reading these to my daughter and grandchildren. Thanks.

gahome2mom at gmail dot com

Unknown said...



gahome2mom at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

follower gahome2mom at gmail dot com

Michele P. said...

now following your blog!

micaela6955 at msn dot com

Unknown said...

Tweeted: @gahome2mom follower gahome2mom at gmail dot com

Win Board Bks @writereader http://bit.ly/LJQlD

Brimful Curiosities said...

EATING THE RAINBOW sounds great! Colorful foods make meals more appetizing.
Email avail in profile. Thanks!

KR said...

I would love all/either of these. I teach kindergarten but my students still love board books, especially at the beginning of the year. I think they like the tactile feeling holding one gives. All of these sound wonderful to use as story starters for journal writing.

KR said...

I follow.


Unknown said...

Don't enter me...

What a fun interview though!! Eco-friendly author with a great wit.

Katie said...

I would love to be entered for all 3! I am a follower on google reader and tweeted @ http://twitter.com/kateh12783

Cinnamon said...

Awww! My baby girl would love these! I'd like to enter all three if possible.

I follow, linked to this from my blog: http://ajourneyofbooks.blogspot.com


Lisa said...

I'd like to be entered for any of these. Thank you.

Carlene said...

I would love to be entered for each of these. I would love to share with my grandson. Please inlcude me in your giveaway.

I am a follower.


Sarah said...

I have a one year old and a two year old and I would love to be entered for any of these books. They look wonderful!

Unknown said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that we haven't received one of these books yet. Thanks.

gahome2mom at gmail dot com

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