Artemis and I met at Jane Yolen’s picture book boot camp at Highlights Foundation the November before Covid hit. Artemis reached out to Writers’ Rumpus as she had two books come out in 2020. That’s such a difficult time for book releases. So let’s give her some author love here!
CAROL GORDON EKSTER: Artemis, your mom, Corinne Demas, is actually one of Jane Yolen’s critique partners. How did her writing career influence your career path? You cowrite with your mom. What’s that process like for you?
ARTEMIS ROEHRIG: Since my mother is a writer, I was adamant that I would never go down that career path. Growing up surrounded by industry people like Jane Yolen and the others, I always knew just how tough writing was, and how thick a skin you needed to have to survive the amount of rejection in this industry. Mostly though, I avoided writing because I was a rebellious daughter who didn’t want to go into the family business.
Which is partially how I ended up going into the sciences, since that seemed safely far away from writing.
I always did some writing projects with my mom for fun. But after two of those “fun projects” actually became real books, Are Pirates Polite? and Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle?, I realized I needed to start taking writing seriously.
I enjoy co-authoring because writing can be very solitary, and working with a partner from the beginning can make the writing process more enjoyable. Plus, two heads can be better than one! I highly recommend everyone try co-authoring sometime.
CGE: Tell us about the stories behind the story of your two picture books published in 2020.
AR: Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter? Amazing Sea Creature Facts, co-authored with Corinne Demas and illustrated by Ellen Shi, is the third book in a series following the books Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle?, and Do Doodlebugs Doodle? Amazing Insect Facts.
These books were all born out of my work at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where I was always looking for fun books to read to kids during nature programs. I wanted to create a book that made a great interactive read aloud, but still contained lots of facts, and most importantly, worked for multiple age groups. Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter? was fascinating to work on since I love marine biology, and might have considered it as a career if I didn’t get so seasick!
The Grumpy Pirate, co-authored with Corinne Demas and illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee, is my second rhyming book about pirates! My interest in pirates comes from two angles. First, as a kid, I was fascinated by the pirate ship the Whydah, which wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717, and so was always on the lookout for pirate treasure when I went to the beach. Second, theater was a big part of my life growing up, and one of my favorite shows is Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. I’ve been involved in three productions, twice in the chorus and once in the orchestra pit. Now that I think of it, Gilbert is probably also responsible for my love of rhyme. The Grumpy Pirate was specifically inspired because honestly my daughter was going through a difficult phase, and you can never have too many fun books about social-emotional learning!
CGE: Can you tell us about some of the lows and highs of your career?
AR: Well 2020 was certainly eventful on both fronts! In addition to The Grumpy Pirate and Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter? Amazing Sea Creature Facts, I also had two novelty books come out: Super, Strong Tattoo Sharks and Roaring, Rumbling Tattoo Dinosaurs.
I also had my story “Sparkly Blue Bunny Shoes” published in Ladybug Magazine, and contributed to the Straw Dog Writers’ Guild project “Writing in the Time of Corona.” I also started a new podcast, with author Rajani LaRocca called STEM Women in KidLit, where we interview women with degrees or careers in STEM fields who are also published children’s book authors and illustrators.
As wonderful as it was to have all these things come out, I wasn’t able to do the usual book events, etc. Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter? wasn’t even available on its publication date, because of all the warehouse backups this spring. And one of the hardest things is that I have yet to see any of my 2020 books “in the wild,” and I’m just hoping they will still be in print by the time people are actually going places again. Probably the biggest highlight of 2020 was signing with a new agency, JVNLA. It’s been fabulous getting to work with agents Ariana Philips and Jennifer Weltz!
CGE: What advice do you have for new writers trying to get into the children’s publishing market?
AR: Do your research on the industry. Start by reading every recently published book that you can get your hands on (in the genre you are writing). Google the authors of your favorite books, and check out their websites, blogs, podcasts, and videos. There are lots of great free resources on YouTube right now, for instance those posted by the Highlights Foundation. Follow children’s book writing hashtags on Twitter. Also, I highly recommend joining an organization like SCBWI. Lots of other resources are listed on the Writers’ Rumpus website. You should understand the process, know who the legit publishers and agents are, and know something about the market for your project before you submit your work anywhere.
CGE: What does the future hold for Artemis Roehrig?
AR: My long-term goal is to at least attempt writing every genre of children’s literature. I’m trying my hand at YA right now!
Writers’ Rumpus wishes you good luck with all your writing, Artemis!
You can connect with Artemis here: