CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I was fortunate to experience Jane Yolen’s magical picture book boot camp with so many wonderful moments, and so many awesome authors there sharing the experience with me. Below you will find out about one of the special sweet talented authors that I met there, Carmela LaVigna Coyle.
CARMELA LAVIGNA COYLE: First, I have to say Carol and I bonded over cowboy boots (appropriately so) during Jane Yolen’s picture book boot camp. She is a stylish gal with a glint in her eyes and is loaded with talent. Plus, Carol has a gifted way of making others feel validated.
CGE: Aww! Thanks, Carmela. Yes…we definitely bonded over your gorgeous boots and I am still craving them. But on to writing..Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an author?
CLC: Hah, I still feel like I’m “becoming.” Perhaps that feeling never goes away, and that’s probably a good thing. I’m continually reinventing myself, so it’s interesting to me that I have landed smack dab in the middle of an ongoing book series.
I often times preface my writing journey with my reading challenges which were discovered at the age of eight. After a fair amount of toil, I learned to read when I was nine, around the same time I wrote my first story about a sweet lil’ bunny named Forget-me-not.
Shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Elementary Education and Art, I quickly realized I had the heart and soul of a writer. So, I masterminded a way to make that work financially. (Thanks, Mom and Dad. And substitute teaching jobs.) For me, becoming a momma to two children really sealed the deal. Writing picture books suited/suits my mental constructs. Wink.
Ah, but then one fateful day, while getting ready for a hike, my 4-year-old daughter, Annie, asked me, “Do princesses have to wear hiking shoes?” She quickly fired off another question, “Do princesses brush their teeth?” And another and another. Yes, I was handed a marvelously sparkly gift. I assure you, I wasn’t thinking about your not-so-average princesses that day, but Annie was. If I had been preoccupied with the dishes or something else, I would not have heard her. And it would have slipped past my fingertips straight on to someone else to discover. My first title, Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? was sold to Rising Moon in 2002. This coming year, the series grows to ten original titles (Taylor Trade publishers) with several other title derivatives currently on the market.
CGE: It was your daughter Annie’s questions that inspired your first book and then the series. Who and what else has inspired your books and writing work?
CLC: Nature! Music! Beauty! Children! Puppies! Bubbles… Chocolate! Or, I could just say everything and anything inspires me. There are treasures all around. Almost anything could be the subject of a new story IF/WHEN I find the right entry point. For me, it’s all about the entry point.
CGE: What is your writing schedule like?
CLC: Oh, I wish I could say I have this incredible writing work ethic, where I plant myself in my chair from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. and then walk the dog, eat a heathy lunch, write some more until it’s time to mediate and make dinner. But my inspiration isn’t always predictable. Although I do my best to tame her and her unpunctual demeanor, usually I aim for 10 a.m. B.I.C. It’s often times earlier, yet so much of what I do each day concerns book business matters, preparing for events, website updates, social media, emails, critiques, and so on.
4 p.m. has recently become a portal for writing new stuff. So as of late, I’ve been going with the flow, late afternoon.
CGE: What have been some of the highlights of your career as an author?
CLC: Ok, Annie’s question was definitely a highlight. Each new book launch feels tremendously satisfying too; winning 2014 Colorado Book Award for The Tumbleweed Came Back; seeing a Cheerios commercial with a young girl toting around my book, Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?; signing a book for a real Lakota princess; looking into the big eyes of thousands of little girls who are asking the same questions Annie asked; rolling with a new story. (The high of being in a new story is very tough to beat.)
CGE: What does the future hold for Carmela LaVigna Coyle?
CLC: I have three books coming out next year, Do Princesses Boogie?, Do Princesses and Super Heroes Think Outside? (A Trek Through the National Parks) and a board book version of Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? I’m hoping to establish an ongoing Books For Breakfast program through Feeding America. There are two lively book related projects on the horizon, but I’m unable to say anything about those yet. I’m also seeking a new agent this coming year and that will take some thoughtful preparation, research, and query letter writing. All in all, I’m holding out for a future full of new writing adventures, sunny days and . . . world peace, of course.
Connect with Carmela here: