Today I have the privilege of talking with Sarvinder Naberhaus, whose newest picture book Blue Sky White Stars releases this Tuesday, June 13th. Blue Sky White Stars is a tribute to the American flag and our diverse nation. Happy Book Birthday!
Welcome Sarvinder -
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? How did you get started? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
SARVINDER: I usually write in the mornings when my mind is fresh and I can think. I have been writing songs since I was in 3rd grade. When I decided to start writing for children about 15 years ago, I found a bunch of things on my computer that I had written here and there, and discovered that I had always been a writer, I just didn't realize it. My favorite type of book to write is picture books because my mind thinks in short songwriter sentences.
What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I was a dancer. I did ballet, jazz, tap, hula, and ethnic. I started dancing when I was 8 years old and loved it immediately. I continued dancing through college. It challenges the brain and body. I never got bored.
Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
My first book was Chester the Little Pony. I pretty much loved all the classics like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Charlotte's Web, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Where the Red Fern Grows. I have too many to count! Back then, there weren't as many to choose from.
ME: I know what you mean. I have a long list of books I loved as a child and ones I love today. I keep finding more and more treasures.
Your second book Blue Sky White Stars is due out tomorrow (June 13th). How different is this book from your first book Boom Boom (2014) and your third book Lines (releasing on August 22nd)?
They are all pretty similar in that they use very sparse words and are concept books. Boom Boom and Blue Sky White Stars both repeat words, but Boom Boom rhymes. Lines is a board book, and is probably my favorite manuscript. I hope others see what I see in it.
How long did it take to figure out the homophonic wordplay (“Sew together/ Won nation”/ “So together/ One nation.”)?
I play with word for months. For me, that is the fun part of it-- picking out the perfect word or words. I brainstorm for months and live, eat, and breathe my manuscript. Then I start picking other people's brains.
What inspired you to write Blue Sky White Stars?
As you know, when you write something, you have no idea whether or not anyone will like it, let alone want to publish it. I had not planned on writing it. I had read How to Bake an American Pie, by Karma Wilson, the day before. So, I think I must have slept with patriotic dreams resting in my head. Anyway, it just came to me, the same way songs come to me. And I started writing it down, and coming up with more parallels until I had written a page. Then I started the process of brainstorming all types of images, words, and phrases that both described America and its flag at the same time. I of course brainstormed for months upon months, and picked only my top phrases. I had my critique group, "Write Away," help brainstorm with me. I never send anything out without passing it through them first.
ME: That sounds like it was both fun and challenging. Very sage advice - always run your work through a critique group before sending it into the world.
So, how different were the journeys to publication for each book?
Boom Boom was given to Allyn Johnston, Beach Lane Books, for a critique, as a part of a set of poems during an SCBWI conference. I don't think she knew that I meant it as a picture book, not just a poem. When I told her about my vision for the book, what illustrations I pictured in my mind to go with the words, she decided to hold onto the manuscript. After more than 6 months, she gave me "the call."
Blue Sky White Stars was sent out by my agent. I didn't have an agent when I sold Boom Boom.
What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer)
My inspiration comes from the authors of the same books that inspired me as a child. I love the classics and use my hero's (those authors) as my examples, and try to live up to their standards.
ME: To see other things that inspire Sarvinder, including a tidbit related to her next book, read her 2015 post for PiBoIdMo Day 13: Sarvinder Naberhaus Sees Inspiration All Around.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I have lots of advice for other writers. Join an online critique group. Listen to what ideas others have, knowing that you don't have to take their ideas, they are just brainstorming. If people sense your wall is down and you are listening, they will give you their brilliant ideas. Put in your 10,000 hours. Give yourself permission to succeed. Think outside the box. Play with words. Use words that have an emotional charge that evoke images. Revise, revise, revise, and then revise again. It may take years to finish one manuscript. You can let it rest and then review it with fresh eyes. Don't send out a manuscript before it is finished. Ask yourself questions. Ask God questions. Don't give up.
ME: Thank you Sarvinder. I love your advice to use words that evoke images and think outside the box. Sometimes, I think the hardest of your advice to implement - is to permit yourself to succeed. That nagging little voice on my shoulder can be so loud at times.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
I love dogs. I love to walk with my dog, Judah the border collie, who is now 13 years old. I love dogs because they love you unconditionally. I think that is why Where the Red Fern Grows is one of my favorite books.
On my website, you can find more information about Blue Sky White Stars.
I also have a wonderful book coming out in August called Lines. I think you'll enjoy it.
Thanks for interviewing me!
It was my pleasure. I am looking forward the release of Blue sky White Stars, tomorrow. Thank you Sarvinder for visiting with us. Best of luck with this launch and your future endeavors.
To find out more about Sarvinder Naberhaus, or get in touch with her: