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.

Is Social Media A Must?

My favorite bookends feature a typewriter, books...
My favorite bookends feature a typewriter, books…
...a dial phone, banker's lamp and "book" titled Words and Phrases.
…a dial phone, banker’s lamp and “book” titled Words and Phrases.

There was a time when the term Social Media was not part of our lexicon, when we didn’t debate whether to have a Facebook page, Linked In might mean we were walking arm-in-arm with a friend, only birds Tweeted, Instagram could have referred to grams of instant coffee, cowboys said, “Yahoo,” a (search) engine would have something to do with a car, and hard alcohol was served in Tumblr’s.

Now, as professionals, we must decide which Social Media platforms to use if we want to build up a “platform,” increase our social standing, “brand” ourselves and connect across the internet and with the world.

I’ll admit it, I was resistant to change.  Why?  Because I like to talk on the phone with my friends (gasp), send paper party invitations (really?), look up definitions in my dictionary (scandalous) and synonyms in my thesaurus (what’s that?), occasionally listen to college cassette tapes (the music on my mix tapes are classic!) and (no way!) write letters.

But, since I’ve started blogging I’ve enjoyed “meeting” people from all over the world, making a commitment to myself to write, sharing my various interests, and creating a place where I present myself professionally while still allowing my voice to come through.

It was on Twitter that I saw a post on social media by Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone-The Writer’s Guide To Social Media.  In her post, she compares taking care of your online presence to taking care of your family.  It turns out that Social Media has daily needs just like our families, pets, homes and lives.

Considering that I am an “aspiring author,” having published articles but not yet my books, I’ve wondered if grooming this creature is necessary.  But, when my triplets started college last fall, I decided it was time, my time, to move forward on a path I’ve craned my neck toward for years.

Is social media a must?  You have to decide what furthers your career goals and, for now, I must “feed my craft” however I can.  That means treating Social Media to a healthy, balanced meal with the hope, wish and intention of having a big ice cream sundae with a cherry on top as a reward!

Hon, what are your thoughts on the issue?