Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers, Author/Illustrator Interview

:Donna Marie, author/illustrator of Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers, shares what it’s like to self publish in this interview.

Want to find out more about these pandemic-inspired picture books and E-Books and related info, activities, and free downloads? Check out Pippinherohelpers.com.

NG:  How did you come to children’s writing and illustrating? 

DM: I think like many of us in the KidLit realm, I fell in love with picture books as a young child and have always been drawn to storytelling. As I got older I developed the desire to create books myself, but never did more than write some poetry and short essays. I visited it again, briefly, before my son was born, having designed a little girl character, but never took her anywhere till the 90s. At that time, when my health declined enough that I became disabled and was moved to write poetry again, a friend encouraged me to write.

I was thinking it was the perfect way for me to be able to stay home and earn a living. Little did I know how difficult it would be to get published! Had I known, I likely wouldn’t have pursued it. As difficult as it has been as far as the pursuit of getting traditionally published, it has also been incredibly joyful because of all the many kindred kidlit friends (like you) I’ve met along the way and I can’t imagine having missed out on all that—ever.

NG:  What did you learn in the process of self publishing that most surprised you?

DM:  I can’t really say anything about self-publishing actually surprised me because I knew it was a huge undertaking having to do literally everything myself. It’s why I never wanted to do it! I hate dealing with the business/money end of anything and with self-pubbing it’s unavoidable. I considered the project worth it though. I was already very familiar with the process, but did a lot more research and purchased a few “how to” books, including the legalities, etc., all of which helped me make important decisions. Ultimately, because it seemed the wiser choice to keep as much control as possible, not limit where and how I could sell, and keep my private life and finances separate, I ended up investing in my own ISBNs and establishing an imprint.

I guess the one thing I didn’t expect was that the ebooks, though cheap and readily available, weren’t what people (at least my age) preferred. Feedback was the desire for paperback. That pushed me to re-format all six as paperbacks. I can tell you, my father is happy he—and children—will be able to hold a printed book in their hands 🙂 So am I!

NG:  Did you start with the story, the art, or was it a combination?

DM:  It’s funny—you would think with me being an artist, that art would tend to be where I start, but the only time that really happens is if someone offers a picture prompt! For me, an idea comes, regardless of what triggers it, and I write first. I visualize while I’m writing so the spread illustrations are forming from the beginning of the writing process. My word and art creativity are seamlessly connected in my imagination.

NG:  How did you manage your time in order to work on writing, illustrating and publishing the series?

DM:  This question actually made me laugh! Manage? Time? From the very beginning I felt pressure because the nature of the subject matter is very timely and I wanted it to be of use as soon as possible, at a time we all hoped would be the worst of the pandemic. (Sorrowfully and tragically, that’s not the case, and in the U.S. will be living with this serious threat for a long while.)

As per usual, I estimate something to take about half the time it actually will so, although I was hoping the books would be available by May/June, the reality of creating 6 books, a website, establishing an imprint and logo, all the glitches that happened along the way and being forced to food shop on occasion and get “some” sleep, there’s never been enough time and here we are at the end of August! And the thing is—I’m not done! Now that the books are finally published and “out there,” I can go back and create the additional artwork required to make 2 more versions: interracial and same-sex parents.

And I feel like I have to give a “shout out” to technology, without which this entire project could not have been possible. I have that proverbial love/hate relationship with it, but in this case — except for the glitches — it was “loooove.” 😉

NG:  What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

DM:  I’m such an open book, I’m not sure there IS anything! (You) might think that because I thoroughly enjoy good conversation and love to socialize that I might not like to be alone when, in fact — I love being alone!

NG:  Who would you like to read your books/what are your goals with the series?

DM:  I’m hoping families with young children, and teachers with young students can benefit by the content of the books (ages 3-8), especially now with the problems faced as the school year begins. I think children being able to see their experience in book form, with illustrations that explain something as abstract as a virus, can help them more understand it.

I did my best to show why washing hands, wearing masks and staying physically distant are so important, and by doing these things they become Hero Helpers. By doing so, along with helping the people in their own lives, they ultimately help the heroes who are risking their own lives to help others.

Naomi, thank you SO much for featuring my books on your wonderful blog and giving me the opportunity to talk about them and a bit of what is behind them.

Find :Donna Marie on: Pippinherohelpers, Writer Side UP!, Creativity Cookbook, Twitter.

Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers, Debut Picture Books

One of the positive aspects of writing Kidlit is the supportive community, and writer/illustrator :Donna Marie has been more than supportive; she’s volunteered countless hours to NJSCBWI. When the pandemic hit the U.S., :Donna wanted to find a way to help kids understand Covid-19 and why their routines were disrupted, and show how they could stay safe. She turned her idea into a reality by publishing  Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers, which are available in 6 different versions with 2 more inclusive versions on the way. In addition, on the website Pippinherohelpers.com, :Donna offers additional info and tools for kids and adults and free printable downloads to post anywhere from bathrooms to classrooms that illustrate hand hygiene, wearing/handling face coverings, and more.

What’s the story about? 

One morning in March 2020 a child wakes up and gets ready for school only to be told by Mom that he/she has to stay home—it’s a rule. The child doesn’t understand, is upset about no longer being able to play with friends and do many “normal” things like go to the playground, the movies, school or anything outside their home or family. The mother then tells the child about the pandemic—the deadly virus that’s “sneaky and quick.”

Accompanied by illustrations, she explains how easily the virus spreads, how it can make some people very sick, who the heroes are who help the people who need hospital care, along with the many essential workers we count on. The child learns that by doing “stay safe” things like staying physically distant, wearing masks and washing hands they become “Hero Helpers.”

Highlighted are many positives about staying home, and lots of “stay at home” activities, including a surprise “fun” idea Mom has the family do. The child is reassured that, until the doctors say it is “safe” again, they will visit friends and family virtually, continue to be grateful for the good things, and how they will stay strong till this pandemic passes.                          Kathy Temean on Writing and Illustrating 

In :Donna Marie’s words: 

When this pandemic hit the U.S., I saw the plethora of wonderful stuff being offered by the KidLit community, librarians and teachers to families with children to help them get through the whole stay-at-home situation and was blown away by it. My natural inclination was wanting to contribute and what came to mind was a book I wrote back when my son was in maybe 3rd grade, so 1993ish. It was called The Rainy Day and in it were ideas of what to do on a rainy day. I figured maybe I could list them and post it in a blog post, but quickly poo-pooed that since it really wouldn’t offer anything more than what was already out there, so why waste my time? But one thought led to another, I ended up writing an almost totally new story, and when I realized I had the power to execute these books digitally to make diverse and inclusive versions, there was no stopping me!

Where can people find Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers?

Check out  Pippinherohelpers.com to order ebooks on Kindle and Apple Books. Paperback versions may be ordered on Amazon.

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Author/Illustrator Bio:

:Donna is a proud and blessed mother and grandmother, and as a woman of love, hope and faith, she has loved stories since the first time she held ARE YOU MY MOTHER, THE CAT IN THE HAT and MADELINE in her hands. Passionate about storytelling in all forms, the wonder of words and pictures in books has long inspired her to tell stories of her own. As a small voice amid the glorious chorus of book creators, her hope is to add some small measure of value and joy for her gracious readers. And all of this while doing her best not to consume more “goodies” than good books! 😀