Today I have the enormous pleasure to host Miranda Paul. I have admired her writing and books since she first published One Plastic Bag. And thanks to the generosity of little bee books, there are four books to be given away (details below).
Miranda, Thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest books and writing.
Thanks for having me.
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
MIRANDA: I write everywhere and at any time of day. But I do have a studio office, called my Underground Lair, and my best working hours are between 9:00 am and 2:30 pm when the house is quiet (except for the cats!). My favorite type of book to write is any and all of them. I honestly can’t choose. But the new, shiny idea is always the most fun, right?!
What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I’ve had 7 cats, 2 dogs, 2 skinks, and many fish as pets throughout my life, and I used to volunteer at a zoo as an assistant zookeeper. I love animals!
ME: An assistant zookeeper! That's my dream job, after being an author.
You’ve written an eclectic combination of Picture Books. Three non-fiction - One Plastic Bag (recycling in Gambia), Water is Water (water cycle poem), & Whose Hands Are These? (job concept book) and three fiction books – Trainbots, 10 Little Ninjas, Blobfish Throws a Party. The Great Pasta Escape is a wonderful new fiction book and Are We Pears Yet?, though fictional, hearkens back to Water is Water with its plant life cycle focus.
Do you prefer to write fiction or non-fiction? What’s the hardest aspect of each genre for you?
I don’t prefer one to the other. People who know me know I have a very whimsical, creative, and humorous side in addition to my serious and scientifically-curious side. If I had to write only one kind of story for the rest of my career, I’d feel constrained and limited. Whatever I’m writing, there’s always something glorious about it and something frustrating or challenging.
I do love the fact that many of my nonfiction books have gone on to inspire environmental or community projects and that sales have benefited charity groups. The research and writing nonfiction can take a very long time for me, so I welcome the creative exercise of writing a fiction title in between phases of working on a nonfiction project.
What was the inspiration for The Great Pasta Escape and Are We Pears Yet?
I wrote Are We Pears Yet? in spring 2013. My husband and I were trying to prep our children for an upcoming 2,000 mile summer road trip. One day, while waiting in the car to pick up my daughter, my son in the back seat kept expressing his impatience. Why did we have to wait SO VERY LONG for her to come out? (We were only in the car for 10-15 minutes, max). I worried we’d never make it through a 15-day trip. So I did what I always do—I injected humor into the situation.
After stating that the “Are we there yet?” question wouldn’t be allowed on our trip, I began improving acceptable alternatives for my son in the back seat. “Are we bears yet? Are we chairs yet? Are we pears yet?” I suggested. He giggled. Then, I realized there might be a book idea in that last one, and began making up a story on the drive home. Once I’d written the book and revised it, I’m happy to say my agent and editor loved it immediately. My editor Neal Porter even wrote, “Soooo....Having just told an author that among the inanimate objects that should never talk are fruits and vegetables, I'm ready to break my rule.” It’s fun to break rules.
The inspiration for The Great Pasta Escape came from my editor, Sonali Fry. I’d originally thought about writing a cute little book of pasta poems—but she encouraged me to think outside the box (ha!) and she and my agent gave me a deadline to try and pull it off as a funny book. There’s nothing like a deadline to inspire creative genius. My friend and YA author Melissa Gorzelanczyk kept Snapchatting me pasta puns and encouragement while I was working on it, since she knew how much I was struggling through writing, revising, and rewriting the whole book. She’s my Angel Hair, you could say, and that’s why I dedicated the book to her.
ME: It's fun to see the different ways that stories are born. I love that they are both a bit "out of the box" and rule breaking, that's what makes them both so much fun.
With eight books published in the past two years, does it still feel like a dream?
Always. There’s a lot of work involved, and writing is way harder than most people think, but I love what I do and am grateful to call this my career.
Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Roald Dahl (The BFG), Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree), and Lois Lowry (The Giver). I could talk about these books forever, so if you ever catch me in person—let’s chat!
ME: It's definitely a date.
With such a diverse spectrum of work, what/who is your greatest source of inspiration?
I think I’m able to pull inspiration from everywhere. I’m always watching, listening, participating in life. It’s cliche, but ideas are all around. And the ones I’m supposed to write find me and then persist. That’s how I know I must write it—it keeps coming back and feels right for me to work on. Like I can’t not work on it.
Do you have a favorite book? (We promise NOT to tell the others) Perhaps one that was the most gratifying to write? One that means the most you or your family? Or one that tickled your funny bone the most?
My favorite books are the ones I haven’t written yet. There’s so much possibility in what’s to come. If I ever label one of my books as my “best work ever” it would be like saying that I’ve reached my peak, or even that my career is over (or soon to be). I’m still on the upward climb, hopefully. Writing has become my way of life, and I love it.
ME: And we can't wait to see what you create next!
How hard was it to write Are We Pears Yet? as a play? What was the toughest aspect of creating this book?
The year I wrote this book, I was teaching at a local high school. Public Performance was one of my sections in the English Department, so everyday I got on the stage and handed out scripts and played drama games with my students. My experience with drama and theatre really helped. It was great to get to apply those skills to picture book writing. The toughest aspect was paring the script down to something that would work as a 32-page book rather than a reader’s theatre or stageplay.
ME: But it would be SO much fun to high school students acting out a longer version of this play!
Your books are so beautifully succinct. Did you submit them with illustrator notes? Did you have much input into the images?
Some have illustrator notes, others don’t. I usually submit art notes where it’s not obvious what I’m envisioning, and it’s paramount to the story to understand what’s going on. In the ending of The Great Pasta Escape, for example, the text says “no one spoke a word…” -- but part of their plan was that they WROTE the words that helped them escape—by way of signs in the factory.
Was it serendipity or planning for The Great Pasta Escape and Are We Pears Yet? to release so closely together?
Totally unplanned. In fact, I didn’t even realize until last fall that I’d have two food books releasing near each other. Anyone have a recipe that includes both pears and pasta?
ME: Gorgonzola Pear Pasta (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/206356/gorgonzola-pear-pasta/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringContentType=search%20results&clickId=cardslot%201). Anyone else got one?
Is there something you want your readers to know about either, or both, The Great Pasta Escape and Are We Pears Yet?
Are We Pears Yet? has an “Encore!” (back matter). I had fun researching and writing it, and I hope it doesn’t get skipped over. Pears are more fascinating than you might know.
The Great Pasta Escape is one of those books where the art tells at least half the story. Pay attention to it! If you’re following along, you’ll see that Spaghetti is a writer, and the silent hero of the whole thing. Take your guess as to whether or not that’s intentional.
ME: I loved the idea of writing the “back matter” as an Encore! What genius. Hmm, not sure that's a hard guess.
What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s writer for you?
Probably waiting so much! Ha! I have a book that my agent sold many years ago, and it still doesn’t have a pub date. I haven’t even gotten to announce it yet. Frustrating as the long waits may seem, though, the waiting does ensure that we will always work on books with lasting concepts and themes. Writers who try to capitalize on some quick trend will quickly realize there’s no point in writing a picture book like that. Write what’s in your heart, what will stand the test of time. That’s the way to make all of the frustrating aspects melt away so you can enjoy the many rewards of this profession.
Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
My husband, Baptiste Paul, and I recently completed a book that includes 14 extraordinary stories of children around the world who have a very interesting journey to get to school. It’s called Adventures to School, and it’s scheduled to come out next summer.
I’m also breathlessly awaiting final art from Paige Kaiser for a book I wrote years ago called Mia Moves Out. It’s about a girl who outgrows a shared room with her little brother. It will be published in Fall 2018 from Knopf Children’s at Penguin Random House.
And I’m in final stages for two 2019 nonfiction books—one called I am Farmer, co-written with Baptiste Paul, and a book called Nine Months with Jason Chin.
There are actually three more books in the works...but I can’t announce them yet! Stay tuned.
Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or anything you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?
There are still things I wish I knew! That’s what I would have wished to hear beforehand; that even multi-published authors still feel like they’re figuring things out. And that if you don’t know all the answers, it’s OK. The work and the process mean a lot and that’s what really matters. That and the children, of course. Children who embrace the books make this work truly fulfilling.
ME: Thank you. Good (and maybe bad) to know we never have it all figured out. The trail and the journey are at least half the fun.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
Dolphins. They’re so intelligent and friendly. I think those are two of my favorite qualities. Plus, who doesn’t love dolphins? I have a particular love for pretty much all aquatic creatures.
Thank you, Miranda for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.
The Great Pasta Escape releases TOMORROW August 29th. Happy Book Birthday!
Are We Pears Yet? releases September 19th.
Be sure to comment on this blog and/or this Friday's #PPBF review of The Great Pasta Escape to be entered into the drawing to win one of Miranda's books - The Great Pasta Escape (2 of these), Blobfish Throws a Party, or Trainbots . *If there is a particular book you want to be in the running for, please note that in your comment.
To find out more about Miranda Paul, or get in touch with her: