Celebrates the Release of Two Board Books!
Today we celebrate the book birthday of Marsha Diane Arnold’s
board books: Baby Animals Take a Bath
and Baby Animals Take a Nap, both
illustrated by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes and published by Charlesbridge.
Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning picture book author, with over one million books sold. She has been called a "born storyteller" and a "magician of literary innovations." Her first book, Heart of a Tiger, won the Ridgway Award for Best First Book by a New Author. A few of her other many awards include Smithsonian Notable Book for The Pumpkin Runner, three times Dolly Parton Imagination selection for Roar of A Snore, and Junior Library Guild Selection for the three-star reviewed Lost. Found.
When not creating imaginative words and wacky characters at her home in Southwest Florida, Marsha enjoys traveling the world and, like her characters, always trying new things. Learn more about Marsha at her web site: http://www.marshadianearnold.com/.
Marsha was kind enough to answer a few questions. Get ready to be inspired and informed!
Tell us about your new
board books—your inspiration and how the stories grew into these wonderful
I’ve had fourteen picture books published, Baby Animals Take a Bath and Baby
Animals Take a Nap are my very first board books. Having them published by
highly respected Charlesbridge and illustrated by my friend Phyllis Limbacher
Tildes is the icing on the cake.
image that began the books was a polar cub taking a “snow bath.” Where that
image came from I can’t recall, perhaps while I was watching a wildlife
documentary. Wherever the image came from, it made me think about all the
different ways animals take baths. I wanted to share with the youngest of
“readers” how human babies and animal babies are similar, indeed how humans and
animals are similar. I immediately felt the best format for this concept would
be a board book, but I’d never written one before. So the “snow bath” idea
stayed in my files for years until I decided that polar cub really needed to
finish his bath...and I needed to finish that book. When the bath book was
completed, I decided to add a napping book and a snacking book. After all,
don’t the best board books come in threes? Yolanda Scott was the acquiring
editor and loved the bath and nap concepts, but decided to put the snack book
to the side. When Yolanda took a leave to have her second child, Julie Blivens
became my editor, so I was lucky to have two of the best editors in the
know quite a bit about animals, but Julie wanted verification of the age at
which each baby animal started to bathe and exactly how they napped. This was
difficult; some of the experts I contacted weren’t even sure. The research
was challenging, but it was also fascinating. I learned so much more about the
wonderful animals in the books.
Marsha, you’re a
well-published author, so tell us about your writing journey and how you “broke
you, Rob. I never thought of myself as a well-published author. I rather like
the sound of that.
really think writing and reading go hand in hand, so I guess my writing journey
began as a child who loved reading. But I never thought about being a writer.
To me, the people who wrote books were like gods and goddesses, living in a
world I could never hope to attain. The thought of being a writer never crossed
as a stay-at-home mom, I was inspired by the wondrous imaginations, fanciful
language, and daily adventures of my children and their friends. I just had to
write about it! So I started writing a weekly newspaper column entitled homegrown
treasures. I wrote that column for ten years. It was great writing
practice. I was also encouraged in my writing because my column was much loved
by my readers and won three awards from the California Newspaper Association.
the time I was writing the column, I knew what I really wanted was to write a
picture book. To me the best picture books embody a universal truth in a
simple, beautiful way. I longed to do that. My first picture book Heart of a
Tiger was rewritten scores of times and rejected 13 times before I found
the editor who loved it as much as I did. It remains my most honored picture
book, winning three state Children’s Choice awards, the Ridgeway for Best First
Book by a New Writer, and many more – after 13 rejections. When I visit schools
I share this with students and tell them that it only takes one “yes,” even in
a sea of “noes,” to be on the way to where you want to be. It’s a good reminder
for all of us.
What is your normal writing
writers write every day. Some writers write from 7 to noon. Some writers have
normal writing routines. But not this writer.
fear I do not have a regular schedule or routine. Life keeps interfering! When
I am very, very good, I write for a few hours in the morning, maybe four days a
week, but nothing in my life seems to be regular...or normal.
Sloat, my long-time writer-illustrator friend, once told me she believed I did
a lot of writing in my head. I think she’s right. Sometimes I sit down to work on
a manuscript that’s been on the back burner, excited to start where I left off.
I open the manuscript and, to my surprise, see only a few words splattered
about. Yep. I was writing in my head and forgot to write it on the page. Not a
great feeling. So, dear writers, it’s best to sit down every day for a few
minutes or a few hours, at least to transfer what’s in your head to your page.
What's your best tip for
finding inspiration and new ideas?
I think it’s being aware. If you are aware of yourself in each moment and open
to all the wonders...and surprises...around you, ideas will come. Inspiration
has come to me on a walk, listening to NPR, reading a book/magazine/newspaper,
watching my grandchildren, or listening to the cicadas sing at night.
Were you a reader as a
child? What was your favorite children’s book and why?
it seems that’s all I was as a child – a reader. As a preschooler, I was shy
and didn’t have a lot of other children to play with. In elementary school, I
was still shy and attended a two-room country school with only 30 students. I
spent a lot of my time reading.
grandmother bought and read to me “Little Golden Books.” I loved them all. At the
two-room country school, one side of each classroom was lined with books. My
favorites were books about animals. After all, I grew up on a dairy farm and
have always had a special affinity for animals. Two of my favorite books were Black
Gold by Marguerite Henry and Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight.
What are you working on now
and what’s coming out next?
a secret I can’t share...well, I’ll share part of it. In the second half of
2016, I sold three manuscripts! Two of them are still being negotiated
and an illustrator has yet to be found for the other, so I’m sworn to secrecy
until we announce them in Publishers Weekly. Previously, I mentioned my
affinity for animals, so it should come as no surprise that the manuscripts
have animals as characters. One story is set in China, one in a fantastical
place called Thistle Hollow, and another in the Galápagos Islands.
the top of my “to do” pile is going over the revision notes from the acquiring
editor of one of these stories. After working on the story for years, I thought
I was done! Nope. There’s lots of work to be done still, but with an editor who
seems even more excited about the story than I am. What could be better than
What advice can you offer
to new writers or those still dreaming of one day being published?
practical advice you can discover with a bit of sleuthing. It’s always a good
idea for writers to practice their sleuthing skills.
advice always starts with “join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and
Then do what I don’t do and begin a writing routine, set time/times and
day/days to be alone with your story and to write. It’s a good idea to attend a
conference from time to time, to learn from the experts, to make connections,
and to be inspired. I plan to share a little about this in my monthly blog over
at Children’s Book Academy. (http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/blogonauts)
It will be up February 11th.
simply, the best advice I can give is to follow your heart. There are stories
inside you that only you can write. Be true to yourself, but more than that, be
true to your story.
thank you for sharing about your books and yourself. Happy double-book
birthday. Welcome to the world Baby Animals Take a Bath and Baby Animals Take a Nap!