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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview Karen Greenwald

Karen M. Greenwald is an award-winning children’s author. She is active in several children’s literature (“kidlit”) organizations. Karen has been admitted into The Children's Book Guild.

Author Photo of Karen Greenwald

Ms. Greenwald co-founded #SunWriteFun, a popular nonfiction writing contest that promotes indie bookstores and garners donations of books to under-resourced schools and public libraries.

Professionally, she is a brand strategist. In 2023, she received her seventeenth international award—a Platinum Marketing Effectiveness Award in Education—for her promotion of A Vote For Susanna. Her other wins include international awards in the following categories: STEM creative, writing, video, rebranding, and self-promotion.

For more information about Karen Greenwald, see our earlier interview (here). 

Book cover - a woman walking under a Vote For Susanna banner in a frontier town.

Karen’s debut picture book, A Vote for Susanna, The First Woman Mayor, illustrated by Sian James (2021) was named a Kansas Notable Book in 2022 and represented the state at both the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival and in the Library of Congress Center for the Book’s Great Reads from Great Places initiative.


Her newest picture book, The Mud Angels: How Students Saved the City of Florence, releases on April 4th.


Welcome back Karen, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest books and writing.


What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript?

You know what, Maria? Nobody has ever asked me that before—what a fun question! I wish I had an exotic answer…lol! I conceptualize most of my manuscripts in my head for a while before sitting at my laptop. I guess maybe on a balcony at the beach. Something about the sound of ocean waves on the shore just relaxes me and brings me to a place of writing meditation. The normal place I write is in my sunroom. I love feeling like I’m in the middle of nature (we get a lot of deer in my yard), without the allergies!


Ha! That sounds like the perfect place to write. What was your inspiration or spark of curiosity for The Mud Angels: How Students Saved the City of Florence?

Book cover -  mud , cars, and debris washed into Florence, Italy in front of the library.

First, I am a true bibliophile who loves a good library! I am also an artist (who will never do my own illustrations—my books would take 20 years to finish!) with a passion for history, so Florence intrigues me. Add to that the fact that when I practiced law, I did work in the international environmental protection arena, so the flood and its aftermath grabbed my attention. Finally, I have always been attracted to stories of communities coming together, especially on an international level. (My focus in law school was on international multi-party dispute resolution.)

Sounds like this was THE perfect story for you to write. How did the writing and journey to publication of The Mud Angels compare to that of A Vote for Susanna?


Well, I guess the obvious answer is that I was able to speak to participants who were there at the time of the flood and experts who lived through it, as well. The style I chose to write The Mud Angels in is also different than A Vote For Susanna. Lyricism felt so much more appropriate, given the topic—but you can definitely tell who wrote both.


I agree. I think voice comes through regardless of format or style, How long did it take from the first draft to publication for The Mud Angels?


I’m going to be very specific…lol. Three years and roughly two months!


 Not too bad! What was the hardest part of writing The Mud Angels? What was the most fun?


The hardest part was when I started it—I had just lost my mom, and she is the person who gave me my passion for art, art history, and learning. The most fun part? The lengthy interviews and follow-ups. Truly, every conversation I had with the Mud Angels. I formed such special bonds with several of them!


That's so cool! When you first saw Olga Lee’ illustrations was there anything that surprised you? What is your favorite spread in the book?

Internal Spread - a father, mother, and child lean over a book in a reading room in the Florence library as sun streams in from upper windows.

Text © Karen M. Greenwald, 2024. Image © Text © Olga Lee, 2024.

I’ve said this before, but she has an incredible ability to create perspective. Her foreshortening is captivating! I really don’t think I could answer that because each spread has several elements I adore, from the sunlight streaming in on the first spread, to the sky on the backmatter! 


I know, it's a bit like asking 'who's your favorite kid,' though sometimes people are surprised when they think about it what really strikes them about their books. What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from The Mud Angels? 


Wow, so many things—that young people can make a difference, can overlook the boundaries of identity and work together, that we are on a globe so everything that happens connects us all, that nature is stronger than we give her credit for and must be respected, that books are art and art matters, and finally that history is an important and necessary teacher! (I could write a thesis on my thoughts on this question, so I will leave it at that…)


 Ha! But that's the perfect answer. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


There are, and nope! Lol!


No worries. We'll just have to keep our eyes open. Best of luck with your projects. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of Redwood National Park. NPS

I have so many, but I’ve always wanted to visit the Redwoods to both experience their grandeur and our smallness, i.e. nature’s metaphor.


They are awe inspiring and VERY humbling. I hope you get to see them. Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing, publishing, or not?


Write with your heart!


 Thank you, Karen, for stopping back by to share about yourself and your newest picture book. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Book cover -  mud , cars, and debris washed into Florence, Italy in front of the library.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect picture Book #PPBF post on Mud Angels: How Students Saved the City of Florence.

To find out more about Karen Greenwald, or contact her:

Check out Karen's Virtual Book Launch (register here:)

Book Launch event flier from I Am Books Store in Boston.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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