An Author’s Two Cents: Interview with Picture Book Author Natalee Creech

I’m super happy to share my interview with Natalee Creech, author of the lovely story WHEN DAY IS DONE (you can find my review of that tiny tale here).

BIO:
Natalee Creech is a children’s author who is equally at home in Canada, (where she grew up) in the U.S., (where she studied education) and in South Korea (where she taught for many years). Regardless of where she lives, she is probably sneaking more children’s books into the house, much to the delight of her children and the dismay of her husband. Oreo, the family cat, remains indifferent.

INTERVIEW:
Lindsay: You mentioned in your Twitter profile that you are a Christian. How does being a person of faith impact the way you approach storytelling, and do you see glimpses of that approach your new book, When Day is Done?

Natalee: You know, I thought this question would be easy to answer but the more I thought about it, the more unsure I felt. How does my faith affect my writing? Sometimes it’s obvious and intentional, as in my second picture book NOTHING (April 23, WorthyKids), which is based on Romans 8:38-39. But what about WHEN DAY IS DONE? When I was writing it, my focus was on writing something suitable for bedtime – ensuring the sounds of the words were soft and soothing – I don’t recall directly thinking about my faith. Nonetheless, looking back I think there are glimpses that shine through. I have sometimes described WHEN DAY IS DONE as a spoken lullaby, but it could also, in a sense, be a prayer or poem of gratefulness: gratefulness for the sun that gives us light and heat, for the tree that cradles us in play, and for the beauty that surrounds us . . .

“The festive flowers, brightly dressed
In colors, artfully expressed
Will bow their petaled heads in rest.
We sleep when day is done.”

As evening falls, the characters in the book move inside with their families and go through their bedtime routines – at this point, there is one verse which could be considered explicitly Christian, but even this verse is subtle:

“We brush our teeth and climb upstairs.
We whisper words of thanks and prayers,
Then wrapped in love, forget our cares.
We sleep when day is done.

When Day Is Done quietly celebrates the many blessings we have been given. I hope that children indeed feel wrapped in love as they snuggle in and hear these words at bedtime.

Lindsay: Since you currently live in South Korea, talk with me a little about how living in that area has impacted your writing career. What have been the most helpful ways you’ve found to stay connected to current trends and demands in children’s literature in the Western part of the world?

Natalee: I’ve come to the conclusion that in many ways living in South Korea is not that different from living in a very rural area of the United States. I’ll try to share some ways that I’ve adapted that might help writers who are in a similar situation, wherever they might live.

First of all, I want to encourage writers that it is possible to find an agent and get published from anywhere. It’s tempting to think that without the opportunity to attend conferences in person you will never find an agent or be able to submit to an editor. When we moved back to the United States for a few years, I was excited because I thought it would be my big chance to attend conferences and have access to editors and agents. As it turned out, I connected with my agent through Twitter, so it could have happened from anywhere. Looking back I don’t think my geographical location particularly affected the length of my journey to publication.

Secondly, thank goodness for the internet! If any of us were trying to do this thirty years ago, it would be much, much harder to get information, submit manuscripts, keep up with industry trends, and market ourselves.

TL;DR summary of the following material: the internet is how I keep up with everything!

Some ways that I stay connected with other authors and current trends – I suspect most ways are similar whether you live in the U.S. or not:

  • online critique groups using Skype or Facebook groups.
  • email communication with my agent
  • Facebook groups related to children’s literature: Kidlit 411, Debut Picture Book Study Group, Sub It Club etc.
  • Twitter – I wish that I had joined Twitter earlier. Once you follow publishers, editors, agents, and authors you will hear about new releases, debut author groups (highly recommended), opportunities to pitch to agents & everything else kidlit related
  • Webinars – usually only if there is a replay, due to time differences. Interestingly, webinars are easier for me here in South Korea due to cheap access to unlimited high-speed internet. In rural Oklahoma, my limited internet could often not handle a webinar or video chat.
  • Podcasts related to children’s literature: The Children’s Book Podcast, Read-Aloud Revival etc.
  • I read mostly ebooks since my access to physical books in English is limited.
  • I chose to remain a member of the Oklahoma region of SCBWI because the Asia region is not very active. Although I can’t attend any events unless I happen to be back in Oklahoma visiting, I try to participate in their Twitter chats, Facebook group, and other online events.

Here are some ways that I’ve had to adjust my marketing and publicity while living overseas. (For context, the nearest English bookstore I know of is five hours away, and fairly small.)

  • forego swag giveaways – prohibitively expensive considering printing and mailing costs
  • mail signed bookplates rather than books
  • focus on what I can do online, instead of in-person – Skype author visits, online interviews, blog guest posts, Facebook, Twitter etc.

One last detail that I learned in retrospect is that it’s useful to have a “generic” bio. We hadn’t planned to return to South Korea when my first publisher asked for my author bio, so WHEN DAY IS DONE talks about me working at a library in Oklahoma . . . unfortunately, that’s not true anymore. I’ve since rewritten my bio (see above) so that it doesn’t actually tell where we live or what my job is – details that for me, might change over time.

Our world is becoming increasingly global. It is much easier to connect with people all over the world and exchange information. If you live somewhere other than the United States, or in a rural area of the United States, take heart. You can still make this journey. Work on your craft, use the internet to your advantage, and strive to be ready when opportunity presents itself.

Lindsay, thank you so much for having me!

Natalee, thank you so much for being generously helpful and thoughtful with your time, and for creating beautiful art for us to read. It has been a joy featuring you and celebrating the release of your new story!

You can connect with Natalee the following ways:

Website: nataleecreech.com
Twitter: @nataleecreech
Facebook: nataleecreechauthor

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