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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Brenda Maier

It is my pleasure to interview a very busy and creative debut picture book author. Brenda Maier is a wife and mother of five children. "Who provide endless inspiration for more stories," including her debut picture book - The Little Red Fort - which sprang on the shelves yesterday. And as if that isn't busy enough, she also works with gifted children at a large, local school district.

Brenda, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to stopping by to talk about your newest books and writing.

It’s my pleasure, Maria. Thank you for inviting me.

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be a children’s writer?)

BRENDA: I have five children (ages 10-18), a husband, and a full-time teaching job, so finding writing time is a constant challenge. Unless it’s summer break, I don’t have a firm writing schedule. Instead, I snatch time to write whenever I can—before everyone else gets up, as I lie in bed at night, while I eat lunch, etc. My favorite writing time is when I escape to Panera for a few hours, and those shortbread cookies are definitely a bonus!

Coffee & cookies, the perfect inspiration. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Now if I told you, everyone would know it! (Just kidding.) Let’s see…well, I hesitate to say this, because since I just mentioned shortbread cookies above, it might appear I have some sort of “dessert issue.” This secret involves cake and frosting. They have to match. Otherwise, I don’t know which flavor I’m supposed to focus on and having two different flavors sort of dilutes the flavor of each of them.

Thanks for sharing your secret and not sending a hitman after me (At least I don't think you have). Your debut picture book The Little Red Fort came out yesterday. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

The Little Red Fort was inspired by my children. When my youngest son was four, he only wanted to hear the classic folktale The Little Red Hen. Understandably, that story was stuck in my mind. Then I found the other four kids in the back yard with a fort they’d made out of some “found” board and lattice. As I thought about both of these things, an idea popped into my mind: what if the Hen were a little girl who wanted to build a fort? It went from there.

Great spur for a story! What was the hardest part of fracturing the familiar tale of The Little Red Hen?

The Little Red Hen has a pretty clean arc, but it also has a rather abrupt ending.

[Quick reminder: After asking who did all the work to make the bread, the Little Red Hen replies, "I did it all by myself. Now I am going to eat it all by myself. And she did."]

I was never fond of that ending, and I wanted to make it more…just. Writing the ending of The Little Red Fort was probably the most challenging thing, as there was nothing to parallel in the original.

Be sure to check out the brothers' labors that eventually convince Ruby to share the fort she built with them. What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s writer for you?

The rejections are the hardest part. Every one of them is painful. But, like Ruby, I will keep learning and keep trying to make something of value.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next book, Peeping Beauty (another fractured tale), due out this summer?

Peeping Beauty’s release date has been moved to February (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2019). It’s a sweet story about impatient chicks who resort to some creative problem-solving to lure their sibling out of the egg. It is not a retelling, but it does give a subtle nod to Sleeping Beauty. It’s illustrated by Zoe Waring, and her characters are simply adorable!

I can't wait to read this one. Just look at Zoe's cover! What adorable chicks. What do you think was the most helpful thing (class, resource, conference) or person that enabled you achieve your dream of being published?

The single most helpful thing was making the decision to join the SCBWI. Oklahoma has a very active chapter, and through SCBWI I found opportunities to join critique groups, attend conferences, and generally learn my craft. I’m still learning, of course.

What is your favorite animal? Why?

Can I say my kids? They’re animals. In so many ways.

If I can’t say them, I’ll say a unicorn. Since they’re imaginary, they wouldn’t shed or smell up the house.

It's your answer. Though I must say, I love your reasoning on both counts!

Be sure to stop back by on Friday for the #PPBF post on The Little Red Fort.

Thank you, Brenda for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

To find out more about Brenda Maier, or get in touch with her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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