CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I’ve been lucky to be part of Carrie’s critique group. She is one of those talented #kidlit authors who understands picture books and creates unique and well written stories. She is an inspiration! ….Let’s learn from her…
Carrie, tell us about your journey into becoming a PB author.
CF: In one way or another, most of my jobs have involved books or writing, although I didn’t do that intentionally! My first job was shelving books in my town library where I worked throughout high school. I was an English major in college, and eventually became a producer at an educational software company. Even though that job focused on multimedia, not books, there was a lot of creativity and writing involved for both students and teachers who used the software. Eventually, I left full time work to care for my kids, and took on freelance work writing content for educational publishers. That work slowly transitioned into writing my own stories, first for magazines like Ladybug and Highlights, and then for book publishers.
CGE: I love how your books, Dozens of Doughnuts had layers – math, friendship, sharing. And Don’t Hug Doug is such a great SEL book. Your new one, Lulu and Zoey, helps children better understand sibling relationships. Can you give us some insight into why you are drawn to these types of stories? And do you write other types of stories as well?
CF: That’s a good insight. There’s an old piece of writing advice that says: In the first act, put your character in a tree. In the second act, throw rocks at her. And in the third act, get her down again. Often my method of throwing rocks at my characters is by putting them into socially difficult or uncomfortable situations. I think that learning to get along in our human relationships is one of the most important things we do, and it’s a learning process that doesn’t end in childhood. Maybe that’s one reason I’m drawn to these stories – because I’m still learning, too!
CF: I remember very vividly the moment I came up with this story. I had picked up my son from preschool and his baby sister was in her car seat “singing” in a very loud shrieky manner. He complained that she was “always” too loud. I replied with the (probably annoying) statement that no one is “always” anything. Sometimes she was loud, and sometimes she was quiet. All the way home, we made a list of all the things that sisters sometimes are – both good and bad, and that night I wrote it all down. Of course, it took many revisions for the story to evolve into the tale of two sisters, drawing from my own life experience with my two sisters. But the structure of the story was there from the very beginning.
HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE, TIME FOR SCHOOL! is about what happens when you attempt to do something that is against your very nature. In this case, Little Tortoise wants to get to school – not just on time (for a change) but FIRST. Along the way, she gets passed by her classmates one by one. But in the end, an encounter with her teacher helps her feel valued for who she is.
CGE: And you have HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE, TIME FOR SCHOOL! Illustrated by Erin Kraan Coming in July with Random House Studio a month later! Wow! What’s this picture book about and how are you feeling about having two books coming out so close to one another?
CF: These two books are coming out very close together – one June 7 and one July 19. I think there are pros and cons to that. In some ways, it’s nice because I can talk about both books at the same time (like in this post!). But in other ways, it’s a disadvantage because I think it can bring about a situation where you are competing with yourself in some regards. Luckily the books are very different from each other in theme, and with HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE being a back-to-school book, I’m trying to focus more of my own launch event and promotional efforts around that book in September when everyone is back from vacation and settling into the school routine.
CGE: You are so great at rhyming, how do you decide whether a book you’re working on will be in rhyme or prose?
CF: Honestly, it’s not really a conscious decision. Almost always, a story comes to me one way or the other and I take it from there. Sometimes people give the advice to write a rhyming story out in prose to see if it works as a story, in terms of the plot, theme and so on. That probably is a good idea, but I have never done that. For me, when I write in rhyme, the language, the rhythm and the rhyme is such an essential part of the story that it just falls apart if I try to write it in prose.
CGE: Tell us more about your process and writing schedule.
CF: I wish it were more regular but since the pandemic started things have been difficult! I tend to feel the most alert and creative in the morning, so generally if I’m going to get anything done at all with my own writing, it happens in the morning. Once I have a draft written, I like to make a little pocket-sized dummy book that I can carry around with me. Then I can take it out and make changes whenever I have a few moments, or when inspiration strikes. That has been very helpful to keep me moving forward on things because I feel like the story is always with me — probably because it literally is!
CF: And of course, there are many iterations through my critique groups. I have one local, in-person group, one online picture book group, and one online group that is specifically for rhyme. And then I have various critique partners that I exchange with occasionally. The best part about all that is knowing that I always have someone to turn to if I need advice or just fresh eyes on a story. And a HUGE bonus is playing a tiny part in helping the wonderful stories that my critique partners are working on come into the world.
CGE: In your journey as an author, what has been the most surprising, what has been the most satisfying and what has been the most difficult for you?
CF: Most surprising: How hard it STILL is to write a picture book, even having 6 books under contract or published at this point. Certainly, I know more than when I started, but it has never become “easy.”
Most satisfying: Seeing my own and my critique partners’ books in print, and especially running into them “in the wild” at bookstores and libraries. Also the random little emails and tags on social media from people who love my books. I’ll never get tired of those!
Most difficult: As Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Publishing moves with the pace of a tortoise walking through molasses, which is NOT a detail from HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE, but easily could have been. When you’re excited about something it is VERY difficult to wait.
CGE: What does the future hold for Carrie Finison?
CF: Beyond the two books I have coming this summer, I have two more picture books (not announced yet) coming in 2023 (pandemic-willing). I don’t think I can say much about them but they are both truck-related books. Get ready, truck lovers! And, of course, I’m always working on more.
We’ll be watching for all your upcoming books, Carrie. And thanks for taking the time to inspire us!
You can connect with Carrie here: