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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz -Interview with Amber Hendricks

Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Merchandising, with an emphasis on Visual Merchandising, from Northwest Missouri State University.

Amber has worn many hats in her career: Army wife, Mother, Visual Merchandiser, Certified Pharmacy Technician, and most recently, Childcare Professional. But she has always circled back to her first love of telling stories. She currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children.

She's the author of Sophie and Little Star (2018). Her second picture book, Extraordinary Ordinary Ella, releases tomorrow.

Welcome Amber,

Hi, Maria! Thank you so much for having me.

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?)

AMBER: I’ve been dreaming up stories for as long as I can remember. Books have always been a huge part of my life and I was blessed to grow up surrounded by readers. In college, my Grandmother owned a bookstore and I would rush home every weekend to share my new story ideas with her.

I didn’t seriously pursue publishing until many years later when I ran a small daycare for teachers’ children. Picture books were a huge part of our day and it wasn’t long before I started sharing my own stories with the Littles. When I started researching the market, I quickly realized how complex picture books were to write and challenged myself to learn the craft.

How cool that your grandma owned a bookstore. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I have a debilitating fear of heights. Once, I even traveled to Ireland to stand on the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff on Inishmore (a part of the Aran Islands) and face my fears. Unfortunately, I wasn’t brave enough to get within five feet of the edge.

Oh no. Though you know, cliff edges are overrated. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I absolutely loved the Babysitter Club books growing up. So much, that I convinced my friends to start our own chapter! I also loved the Boxcar Children books, which are now a favorite of my 7-year-old son.

Those are both great series, with strong, self-reliant kids. What was your inspiration for Extraordinary Ordinary Ella?

Extraordinary Ordinary Ella started as a title that popped into my head. Like Ella, I always felt that I was good at most things, but extraordinary at none. I wanted to know more about Ella, and what made being ordinary so extraordinary. And I loved the idea that simple acts of kindness could turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

That's a great premise. Is there something you want your readers to know about Extraordinary Ordinary Ella?

That there is beauty in ordinary acts of kindness.

What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (either as a child or now as a writer.)

I am constantly inspired by the kidlit community. They are a group of such interesting and fantastically kind people who never stop pushing for their dream and are always ready with an encouraging word.

The kidlit community, while definitely encouraging and inspiring, is also great for giving you a push, when needed. Was Extraordinary Ordinary Ella easier, or harder, to write than Sophie and Little Star?

It was harder. I had just parted ways from my literary agent and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. Thankfully, my critique partners were there to pick me up, dust me off, and encourage me not to give up on the story. It was an honor to dedicate Extraordinary Ordinary Ella to them.

Critique partners are the best! I love mine, too. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

2020 has turned out to be a big year for me! In addition to Extraordinary Ordinary Ella, I have a second picture book publishing with Beaming Books called Superheroes Don’t Babysit, illustrated by Kyle Reed. Following those are the first two of a four-book board book series, also with Amicus Ink, and illustrated by Gavin Scott. The final two board books will release in Spring 2021!

What a great year! I'll have to keep my eyes open for these books. Is there anything about writing or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or maybe something you are glad you hadn’t known at the time?

If I had known how much heartache there can be in publishing, I might never have gotten the courage to put my stories out there. But I’m glad I did because there are so many beautiful moments, too!

This job is definitely not for the faint of heart. Heading into your second book release, and associated readings and school visits, do you have any advice for those just learning their book is to be published? (What will you do/try differently this time?)

It’s hard not to immediately start dreaming of all the things you hope for your book—a preorder campaign, an amazing launch, awards, and hitting lists… And it’s even harder not to rate your success by the success of others. So much of the publishing industry is out of the author’s control. With this book, I’m choosing to focus more on the things I can control and enjoy.

I hope you have a great launch! What is your favorite animal? Why?

That’s a tough question. As a mom, I might say anything I don’t have to clean up after! But honestly, I’m not sure I have a favorite in particular, although I am rather fond of bulldogs.

Thank you so much for coming by to talk with me Amber. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

Be sure to stop by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Extraordinary Ordinary Ella.

To find out more about Amber Hendricks, or get in touch with her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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