The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Shelly Becker
You might mistake my next guest for a superhero.
Because even without a cape or laser vision, she's able to channel super powers to help her conquer bad days and handle mistakes. Based out of Toronto, Canada, Shelly Becker gives us a glimpse into how she harnesses this super power (along with a pen) and attempts to help kids find their own super powers.
If you can't tell from this interview what a wicked sense of humor Shelly has, be sure to check out her website.
Welcome Shelly, Thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about writing and your newest book, Even Super Heroes Make Mistakes, which released October 2nd.
It’s my pleasure, Maria. Thank *you*!
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?)
SHELLY: I started writing 16 years ago, when my youngest son was a baby. My writing routine has changed over the years. When I started, I was a SAHM and made time to write daily. These days, I also have a day job, and do school visits and other events, so it’s harder to fit in writing time. As for where, I usually write at home. I’ve tried writing in coffee shops, libraries, other public places, but I find it too distracting. There have been times I’ve written in my car while waiting for my kids or if I arrived somewhere early and had extra time. My favorite thing to write is picture books, but blog interviews are fun, too. :-)
Ha, I'm glad you like blog interviews, too! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
Okay, this is a weird story. Few people know this because I was only reminded of it recently. As a child, when I couldn’t sleep, I would play a little game with my sister called Guess What Time It Is. (I had a watch with a light and she didn’t, apparently.) After each guess, I’d say, “earlier,” or “later” and encourage her to keep guessing until she got it exactly right. When she reminded me about this recently, at first I had no recollection of it. But the more I thought about it, the more familiar it sounded. I have no idea why I did that. I guess counting sheep didn’t work. And after all, I had a watch with a light and she didn’t. :-)
That's hysterical. It's funny the games we develop when we're kids. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
My favorite book as a child was a little book called Arty the Smarty by Faith McNulty. I also enjoyed Dr Seuss and knew The Cat In The Hat by heart.
I've never heard of Arty the Smarty. But that fish's face is so adorable! What inspired your Super Heroes books?
When my youngest son, Ezra, was 3 or 4 years old, he had a super-temper-tantrum. Because he liked Superheroes so much, I said, “What do you think Superman does when he doesn’t get his way? Can you imagine Superman having a temper tantrum? He’d destroy the whole house!” I doubt it helped Ezra’s temper tantrum in any way, but it gave me the idea for Even Superheroes Have Bad Days.
I love that - It might not help, but darn if it doesn't give us a great story. How different was it to write Even Superheroes Make Mistakes and Even Super Heroes Have Bad Days (2016) from your debut picture book Mine!Mine!Mine! (2006)?
They were all quite different. I’ve found that each book has its own journey. One of my main goals when writing Mine! Mine! Mine! was to cultivate patience as a writer. Prior to that, like many new writers, I had a tendency to submit manuscripts before they were ready. (Sincerest apologies to the editors on the receiving end of those submissions!) So with Mine! Mine! Mine! I really took my time, let it sit after each revision and was in no hurry (or pretended I was in no hurry) to submit it.
The first draft of Even Superheroes Have Bad Days flowed so easily and so quickly, it felt like a gift. However, over the next 2 years, in response to editorial requests, I ended up writing a bajillion and a half different versions. I then took a hiatus from writing for several years and the manuscript sat on my hard drive. It was my desire to see Even Superheroes Have Bad Days published that eventually pulled me back into writing.
Even Superheroes Make Mistakes was much harder to write. It took a long time to complete the first draft. But after that, the revisions went quickly and easily.
How did it come about that Chris Evans read your Even Super Heroes Have Bad Days for Cbeebies Bedtime Stories May 2017? Any plans for him to read Even Superheroes Make Mistakes?
I’m not sure if Sterling pitched it to them or if they approached Sterling. Either way, he did a super reading and it was super cool! No news yet on whether Even Superheroes Make Mistakes will be featured on Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, but I sure hope so! (And it would be terrific if Chris Evans reads it!)
No kidding! What a thrill that must have been. He did such a great job reading it. [Hint: Look below for a link to Chris Evans' performance.] What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer.)
When my kids were younger, they were my greatest source of inspiration. Now that they’re pretty much grown up, I would say my inspiration comes from the totality of my life experience, from childhood to present day. Inspiration is everywhere.
True enough. We just have to be receptive. Is there something you want your readers to know about Even Super Heroes Make Mistakes?
I want readers to know that everybody makes mistakes. Mistakes are normal. Mistakes are ok. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them.
Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
Thanks for asking! I’m working on some ideas for a third Superheroes book, but it’s too early to share anything.
That's exciting. 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?
I’m glad I didn’t know that I’d be invited to do author visits and other events that involve public speaking. That probably would have scared me away. It wasn’t easy to overcome my fear of public speaking, but I’m so glad I did. Author visits might even be my favorite part of being an author! I never would have predicted that!
What a great answer. I am glad, too. I'd miss your books. What is your favorite animal? Why?
I generally don’t have favorites, so I’ll tell you the first animal that comes to mind and what I like about that animal. Monkeys. They’re such fun to watch!
Thank you, Shelly for stopping by. It was wonderful to chat with you.
Thanks again for having me, Maria. It’s been a pleasure!
Be sure to stop back by this Friday for my Perfect Picture Book Post on Even Superheroes Make Mistakes.
To find out more about Shelly Becker, or get in touch with her:
SUPER SPECIAL TREAT:
You have to watch Chris Evens read Even Super Heroes Have Bad Days - https://vimeo.com/216918288. It is so worth it!