Interview with Joan Holub, and a Happy President’s Day GIVEAWAY of This Little President!
I am thrilled to welcome to the blog today Joan Holub, who has written and published enough books to build herself a small house! No pics of that (though if you ever go there, Joan, do pass a pic along!) but we can read about her journey, and gain some insights into how she’s done it.
And, after the interview, I’ll give all the details for how you can win a FREE copy of This Little President, a primer board book for the little people in your life, or the teachers and parents who read to them. Now, on to the interview!
SW: I noticed that you work with a partner quite a bit. What do you feel that adds to your writing? Do the two of you work in pieces, with one of you responsible for each piece, or is it more of a fusion?
JH: Suzanne Williams and I are currently writing three series together: Goddess Girls (ages 8-12, Greek mythology school/adventure), Grimmtastic Girls (ages 8-12, fairy tale school/adventure), and Heroes in Training (ages 7-10, Greek mythology adventure).
A good writing partner is someone you can bounce ideas off of and who’ll revise your work in a way that feels right to you. When you write something, you’re so close to it that it can be hard to see the faults right away. A writing partner has more distance and can quickly point out those faults.
The way Suzanne and I work is that we thoroughly discuss what each book will be about. For Goddess Girls, we chose an existing myth to use as a starting point. We discuss themes, opportunities for humor, character goals, and what’s stopping characters from reaching those goals. Then we each write a first draft of one of the books, while the other person writes the first draft of another at the same time. When the drafts are finished, we trade them. We make whatever changes we think need to be made in the other’s draft, using Word tracking. Then we trade back and the original drafter goes over the changes and refines things, making more changes.
SW: Wow, that process sounds simplistically beautiful, and like an excellent writing plan. I’m so impressed! And not just cause I think it’s cool your writing partners name is Suzanne. 😉 Your answer leads right into my next question–about your background as an editor. Can you talk to us about what your editorial experience brings to your writing?
JH: I went from children’s book designer to illustrator, to author-illustrator, to author. My original dream was to illustrate, but I realized I enjoyed writing more, so that’s what I do full time. Knowing something about design and art has been helpful in making book dummies and figuring out how to make a book idea work.
SW: That makes sense–and just goes to show that you never know where life will lead! Among your books there’s a wide range in the age of their readership. How do you decide, or figure out, which category a book should be aimed at?
JH: I think about the kids I know. Would the 3-year-old I know enjoy this idea as a board book? Is it too far outside of her/his world experience? Would it make more sense to a 5-year-old in picture book form? A kid’s sense of humor develops over time, so things that make them laugh at one age, they don’t think are funny at another age.
SW:I think the humor bit is trickiest for me. I like your suggestion of imagining a kid that age, that I know! Talk to us about your writing process. With so many books out, how do you balance time for writing, and time for promotion and business?
JH: An agent once told me that the writing comes first, and I try to remember that. The other stuff is important too, so it can be a bit of a balancing act at times. It’s all good though.
SW: Thanks, Joan! It’s great to hear your thoughts, and learn about your process. Now, let’s talk about This Little President, A Presidential Primer! How did you decide which presidents to include? Were there any you really wanted to add, but couldn’t squeeze in? Picture books of this type I think epitomize the image of an iceberg we’re all familiar with, where what’s seen is only the tip.
I like your tip of the iceberg analogy. In writing nonfiction, I think of it like a sculptor who has a big block of marble in front of them (marble = tons of factual information on a subject). You have to cut away enough info, so that what’s left feels just right for the age of the reader. And of course add humor and/or rhyme at times!
I submitted my board book in dummy form about one president, and the Little Simon editor suggested the idea of ten presidents. We discussed lots of titles and arrived at This Little President. I submitted a list of twelve possible presidents and we cut back to ten. I sorted through tons of facts and picked out the ones preschoolers might find the most interesting or relevant to their lives, such as Teddy Roosevelt and teddy bears; Ulysses S. Grant making Christmas a federal holiday. I wrote in rhyme to make it more fun (for me and the readers).
We do include all 44 presidents on the final spread, with an empty space for number 45 captioned “You?” so little leaders-in-training can imagine themselves as president someday!
And it’s fun to think that somewhere, among the many little kids picking up their first book and giving it a read, are the future leaders of the world. 🙂
You can see the fruits of all Joan’s hard work both on her website, but also on her Goodreads page. Thank you so much, Joan, for the interview and for the FREE copy to giveaway!
In order to enter, simply leave a comment below, with a valid email and a US address. If you promote the contest on FB, twitter, or your own blog, mention that in your comment and your name will get additional chances to win.
For more spotlights, reviews, giveaways and interviews, stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog. Thank you all so much for following, comenting, etc. and have a wonderful President’s Day holiday!