The lovely Rae McDonald asked me some questions about my journey to the publication of my first picture book. I thought I’d spend some time with those questions here, and hope that my journey inspires someone else to keep writing.

The time has come when I can celebrate officially that I have a picture book coming in 2018! The lovely Callie Metler-Smith will be publishing ROCK AND ROLL WOODS through the Spork imprint of Clear Fork Publishing. And the genius of kiddie lit, Mira Reisberg, is helping to bring it to life with her editing skills! I’m hoping to be paired with an illustrator soon, and then I’ll have some fabulous illustrations to share.

I’ll run out of accolades as I talk about my journey because such wonderful people have been part of the journey. Many of my picture book friends are part of the brilliant Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 group for picture book writers. In 12 X 12 you write and revise one picture book each month. Since I joined the group, I’ve written at least thirty picture books. This book is my November 2016 book, and it was critiqued by my bestie critique partners I met through 12 X 12 and a few other talented kid lit friends. I also especially loved a class with Mira Reisberg and Hillary Homzie through Children’s Book Academy that helped shape not only this book but my books coming in the future.

The kids in my home have been tormented by me about my writing since I started working seriously full-time at it six or seven years ago. Sometimes I have to pay the youngest a dollar or two now to critique for me, but it’s well worth it. And the youngest happened to be around when I needed an idea in November 2016.

“What kind of book would you enjoy, Kamora?” I asked.

“A book about a bear. Oh, and name him Kuda.” And Kuda was born.

When book babies are born, our brains pull things out of storage to round them out. And my brain wanted that book to have a broad appeal, but also speak to children who might be on the spectrum for autism. So, I settled on fear of loud noises. What better loud noise to rock out with than a rock and roll band in the woods? Because rock and roll, right? I’d fallen in love with my husband when he sang in his band, so bands hold a special place in my heart anyway.

Another big influence was my love of poetry. I wanted lots of poetic techniques used, or at least a poetic feel to some of the language. There’s a rhythm in the story that I hope will get kids excited about sound.

Unlike some of my story ideas, Kuda came to life very vividly for me from the earliest stages. Even my first draft had the essence of the story that will be the final version. Kuda, a slightly grumpy but very lovable bear, has a thumpity rabbit friend, a crazy squirrel, and a requisite owl for his woods.

I want kids to love Kuda, the slightly grumpy bear, embrace his fears with him, and celebrate when he conquers his fears and joins the fun with his friends.

I retired super young from education, where I served as a teacher, consultant, and principal in one of the largest urban/suburban school districts in the country, winning several awards. I started writing then, but was a “closeted” writer with piles of work in drawers.

Eventually, I dipped my toes in and took classes through Iowa University’s fabulous MOOC offerings, classes where I polished my skills at writing fiction and poetry. I had a few short fiction pieces and some poetry published. I liked seeing my work in print and in on-line literary magazines.

When I started taking classes through the KidLit community, and began following Pitch Wars on Twitter, and jumped into all the warmth that is out there, I felt at home and never looked back.

I have too many works-in-progress and completed manuscripts to name, but they include many picture books (fiction and non-fiction), chapter books, a middle grade novel, and a young adult novel. I also write short stories and poetry, some of which have been published.