Meet Debut Picture Book author, Cheryl Lawton Malone

Cheryl Lawton Malone
Cheryl Lawton Malone

CAROL GORDON EKSTER: Your debut picture book, Dario and the Whale, came out March 1st with Albert Whitman & Company publishers. Tell us about how the book came to be.


CHERYL LAWTON MALONE:    DARIO was inspired by a true-life experience – I spent a month at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony in Provincetown, MA trying to finish a YA murder mystery. The wonderful people who run that program let me bring my dog, which is why he and I were walking on an empty beach one morning in April. Chief and I heard a whoosh about fifteen feet off shore. I stopped. Chief barked. A juvenile right whale raised its head out of the water and looked right AT US, as if he was just as curious as we were. Those few seconds—when each of us realized the others were there—inspired me to write about a boy who meets a whale and a whale who meets a boy. I share the experience with readers in the author’s note at the back of the book.

CGE: Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
CLM: Like most journeys, my road to publication has been frustrating and joyful. I started subbing my work in 2010 after I finished my MFA, thinking I knew what I was doing. Right? Wrong. So I joined a writing group. And then a second. I went to conferences and classes. I read blogs and participated in online seminars and contests. I worked for hire. Submitting my own stories all the time. Getting rejected all the time. One of my picture books made it as far as the editorial selection committee of a small publisher only to be rejected because it “wasn’t our market.” That particular rejection was one of the harder ones.That same year I wrote a simple picture book with a diversity concept. The story was based on the experience of a dear friend. An agent advertised in the SCBWI Newsletter that she was looking for books about diversity. I thought, okay one more ‘no’ is not going to break me. I sent it to Clelia Gore at Martin Literary. The ‘call’ came a few days later. She wanted to represent me. A dream come true. End of story? Not exactly! Despite some great feedback, that book ultimately didn’t sell. Aghhh, I thought. I leaned on friends, my writing groups, the writing community, and my husband. I submitted DARIO to Clelia in September 2015. Clelia loved DARIO immediately. Wendy McClure at Albert Whitman made an offer in December 2015. I feel blessed and proud. Clelia is amazing! Albert Whitman and Wendy McClure are amazing. DARIO was a quick sale that took years of struggle and tons of effort. In yoga, they define ‘stealing’ to include wanting something before you have prepared for it. As much as I wanted to be published before DARIO—and I did—I needed to spend the time on my craft. Before DARIO, I thought I had done everything I could. Now, I realize it was all part of my journey.


CGE: Tell us about your background and how you are now active in the writing community.

CLM: I was a biotech attorney in the Boston area for twenty-two years, working as an associate, staff attorney, and then General Counsel of several biotechs. Those jobs transitioned into running my own legal and operational consulting company for biotech startups. I didn’t start writing full-time until 2010 after I finished an MFA at Lesley and became an adjunct professor of creative writing there. As an alum of Lesley and a past instructor at Grub Street, I am very active in the Boston writing community. I belong to three writing groups, attend conferences, give writing seminars, and cheer at book launches and kid lit meet ups. I’m a member of SCBWI, a volunteer with Boston 826, and a manuscript consultant for Grub Street.

 CGE: What is your writing schedule like?

CLM: I tend to work on my current WIP in the early morning before the day turns into phone calls, emails, dogs, friends and family. I set a schedule for myself. Usually, it’s five pages a day, which can take three hours or six! Then it’s house chores and family obligations. If there is any time left over, I devote that to marketing and social media. Weekends are for thinking about new projects.

CGE: What are you working on now and what does the future hold for Cheryl Lawton Malone?

CLM:  I’m always working on picture books—trying new ideas, revising old ones. In addition, I’m working on a MG novel in verse that should make its way to my agent later this spring. I don’t know what the future holds—hopefully something lovely for everyone.

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CGE: Albert Whitman has generously offered three autographed copies of Dario and the Whale as a #GIVEAWAY for US or Canadian residents only. Click here to enter via Rafflecopter.
Giveaway closes at 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 20.

And you can connect with Cheryl here:







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