Interview of talented author and teacher, Susanna Leonard Hill

Lion Amazon no backgroundI discovered Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog when I first began writing children’s books.   I loved her Perfect Picture Book posts and I was even brave enough to submit my pitch for one of her Would You Read It posts.  Her  Making Picture Book Magic class is one of the best on-line writing courses I’ve ever taken.  And last year, I was thrilled to meet Susanna in person for the very first time at an SCBWI conference! I’m excited to interview her for Writers’ Rumpus.

Kirsti Call: My kids and I laughed out loud when we read your two newest books, WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH and WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES. What was your inspiration?

Susanna Leonard Hill: As many of you probably know, I have 5 children.  The inspiration for many of my books comes from them.  WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH was inspired by my daughter who, at 21 months of age, decided baths were the devil’s work and could not, under any circumstances, be tolerated!  She would literally hyperventilate and run in place in barely ankle deep water refusing to sit down.  I can tell you shampoos were a real challenge! 🙂  WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES was inspired by the entire family 🙂  because if you’re a parent you well know that when one child gets the sniffles it’s only a matter of time before they share it with the whole family!  But LION is also about determination and perseverance – not giving up when you don’t succeed the first time – and ELEPHANT is also about caring for others – both things that I tried to instill in my kids.

KC: Did you always know that you wanted to write children’s books?

SLH: I always knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write until my daughter was born.  With her in my lap, I rediscovered the love of picture books I’d had as a child, and the more I read them to her, the more I knew that was what I wanted to write.  I love the whole experience of picture books, as a reader and as a writer.

Elephant Amazon no backgroundKC: What is your favorite book that you’ve written?

SLH: You do realize that’s like asking “who’s your favorite child?”! 🙂  That is a very tough question!  I love PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS, because Phyllis’s personality appeals to me so much.  I love CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP because it’s silly and fun 🙂  And I love NOT YET, ROSE because I wrote it about my daughter waiting for my son to be born, so it hearkens back to a special time in my life.  But I’m pretty keen on the WHEN YOUR stories… the two that are coming out now, and the two that are on their way!  And I also really love MILLICENT’S MAGIC, a story I wrote many years ago which has never sold, but which delights me just the same!

KC: What new projects are you working on?

SLH: At the moment, I’m working on two would-be board books (possibly picture books) which the only editor who has seen them felt needed another layer.  I am also working on the fourth book in the WHEN YOUR series (WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON’T GO TO BED) which is already written, but undergoing revision.

KC: Oooooh!  I can’t wait to read that one! What advice would you give to aspiring kidlit authors?

SLH: I apologize because this question seems to get asked in every interview, and my answer doesn’t really change!  So sorry, any of you who have read this on another blog post!  Although I wish I had something magical, instantaneous and perfect to tell you, my advice is much the same as that of other children’s authors.

1.     Read a lot of current picture books and get a feel for the market – what’s popular, what sells, what appeals to librarians, parents, teachers, and kids.

2.     Read books on the craft of writing.  Two excellent ones are Ann Whitford Paul’s WRITING PICTURE BOOKS and Linda Ashman’s NUTS AND BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS.

3.     Take some writing classes if you can – in real life or online.  There are lots of good ones.

4.     Write.

5.     Write some more.

6.     Write some more!

7.     Join a critique group – in person or online.  Not only will you get valuable objective feedback from your peers, you will get to practice your own evaluative skills by reading and commenting on their manuscripts.

8.     Write some more!!

9.     Join SCBWI, and follow KidLit411.

10. Don’t just sit at your desk all the time.  Get out.  Do things.  Go places.  Learn stuff.  You never know where ideas might be lurking or what might spark your interest and a possible story.  Also, spend time around kids if you can (without being thought creepy 🙂

11. Look around for online communities of interest, including 12×12, Storystorm, ReFoReMo, RhymeRevolution, and the aforementioned KidLit411 (among others) – places where other PB (picture book) writers hang out, share information, and learn from each other.

12. Eat chocolate 🙂

13. Write some more!

Thank you so much for having me here on Writers’ Rumpus today, Kirsti, and for taking the time to share my new books!  I so appreciate it!

KC:  Thank you, Susanna!  To read my reviews of WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES and WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH go here and here

susanna

Susanna Leonard Hill is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children.  She teaches an online picture book writing class – Making Picture Book Magic  – offers picture book critiques, and does frequent school and library visits.  She lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

 

 

 

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25 comments

    1. Thanks, David 🙂 I read somewhere that you sell one manuscript for every 20 you write (or some awful percentage like that!) so I figure the more you write, the better you get, and the better your chances for hitting the right note with the right editor somewhere along the line! 🙂

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    1. Hi Manju! Thanks so much! I’m so glad you like them! And yeah… I get it with the skipping. The field of picture book writing is a tough one for those of us who like instant gratification or suffer from a wee lack of patience 🙂 But I refer you back to the Warthog story in the KidLit411 interview… patience is a virtue, even in warthogs 🙂 You’ll get there!

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    1. Alas, I think pretty much every editor in the business saw MILLICENT, what, maybe 12 years ago? I’m afraid she has a fatal flaw somewhere… but darned if anyone seems able to put their finger on it! Maybe enough time has gone by I should send her out again! 🙂

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  1. I have read Can’t Sleep without Sheep and immediately had to own my own copy so it’s on it’s way! I’m a huge fan now and also purchased Wake up, Groundhog! and Punxsutawney Phyllis. I am taking Susanna’s advice and studying picture books to help strengthen my own picture book writing aspirations.

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    1. Oh, that is SO sweet of you, Danielle! I’m so glad you liked CAN’T SLEEP! I hope you’ll enjoy the others too (but you do know Punxsutawney Phyllis and Wake Up, Groundhog are the same book? – just Scholastic put a different cover and title on their version…) Good luck with your writing!

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  2. Congratulations Susanna on your ” When Your” books and your other new books coming out this month! I’m sure it’s been a crazy but fun summer so far. Can’t wait to read these two adorable books!

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    1. Thanks, Judy! I so appreciate that! It HAS been crazy but fun. It’s a totally amazing over-the-moon feeling to have 3 books coming out at all, never mind within two weeks of each other. I feel incredibly lucky, and even more so to have the support of you and all the other lovely folks who have been following along on the blog tours and helping share the books!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy! I’m glad you like that elephant! I have to say, every time I look at these books, I love Daniel’s art more! I’m supposed to get to see art for the LLAMA book by the end of next week (hopefully) and I literally CAN’T WAIT! 🙂

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