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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Amanda Davis

Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness.

Author photo of Amanda and her dog Cora.

Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora.

Composite image of Amanda Davis' published books.

She's the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (2021) and she has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children (2020).

For additional information about Amanda, see out earlier interview (here).

Her newest picture book, Moonlight Memories, releases on June 13th.

Amanda, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest picture book and your writing.

Hi Maria! Thank you for having me back! I’m excited to chat with you about Moonlight Memories and all things creative!

What was you inspiration or spark of interest for Moonlight Memories?

Book cover image of Moonlight Memories - girl sitting on a balcony gazing at the stars with a moon behind her.

Moonlight Memories tells the story of a young girl who is dealing with the loss of her mother and finds comfort and healing through creativity. This story holds a special place in my heart as it was inspired by my own personal experience with loss.

Photo of Amanda Davis a s a young girl with the dad.

At a young age, my father passed away. After his death, I was unsure of how to cope with this unexpected loss. It wasn’t until I found art and writing that I was able to fully process the thoughts and emotions surrounding his death. I found my outlet. I found my voice. I soon realized that my father would always live on through the memories I was creating with my words and visuals. [Amanda dedicated Moonlight Memories to her father.]

I'm sorry. But I glad you found a way to keep him alive and way to share that gift with others. What is the most fun or unusual place where you’ve written or illustrated a manuscript?

Hmmm..I don’t know if I’ve completed a full story in a fun or unusual place, but most of my ideas come when I’m in the shower or driving. I also bring my sketch pad with me on trips so I can write and draw as I’m often inspired by new experiences and nature.

Landscape photos of a Western MA retreat center called, Kripalu.

Most recently, I did some drawing and poetry amidst the beautiful backdrop of western, MA during my time at a retreat center called Kripalu. I know there’s some stories lurking in those creations.

Such a beautiful place. I can see why you were inspired there. Thanks for sharing the photos. What was the hardest part of writing Moonlight Memories?

All of my writing is inspired by my own experience. Even with my nonfiction work, I’m drawn to topics that align with my own values or areas of interest. For example, my first three books all have elements of grief, loss, and healing in them. As someone who dealt with the loss of a parent at a young age and experienced several other close losses of loved ones throughout life, these topics are close to my heart and ones that I know others experience as well. Writing about them isn’t easy but I hope these stories can provide comfort to readers just as they’ve provided comfort to me as I created them.

I think you've definitely succeeded in this hope. How long did it take from first draft to publication for Moonlight Memories?

Moonlight Memories took about four years from first draft to publication. 30,000 Stitches took almost a decade so this one was lightning speed in comparison, ha!

Funny how sometimes stories pour out and sometimes they have to be pried out and massaged into being. What was the most rewarding part of the publishing process for Moonlight Memories?

The most rewarding part is knowing that the story might help someone who needs it. After my father died, I don’t remember being asked about how I felt or being given many resources surrounding grief, loss, and healing. This silence made me feel as if people didn’t care, which I’m sure was not the case but yet so many of us avoid talking about the topics of death and dying due to our own discomfort around the topic.

Knowing that Moonlight Memories can help children feel less alone in their grief and offer hope during a difficult time makes me feel good. I also hope the story allows space for children and caregivers to have discussions around the topic and inspire children to look for their own outlets to help heal.

It's a tough topic to broach with kids, when sometimes we can't even address it with ourselves. I appreciated that you showed Dad working on healing, too. Did anything about Michelle Jing Chan’s illustrations surprise or amaze you? What is your favorite spread?

Michelle did an amazing job with the art! I love how she brought magic and light to the text. As mentioned, having hope during difficult times is so important and I think Michelle brought so much hope and light to the story, which invoke a sense of healing and remembrance. I think this was the biggest surprise for me.

When you have a topic such as grief and loss which, some may consider a ‘tough’ topic for children, I always wonder how the illustrator is going to make it accessible. Michelle went above and beyond. She brought beauty to the sadness and to the idea that we will carry our loved ones with us always. She also truly captured the sweet relationship between Piper and Dad and how Dad was going through his own journey as well.

Internal spread of Piper & dad hugging (left side) as a swirl of light, stars, and Piper's drawings swoosh around them and off the right side.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2023. Image © Michelle Jing Chan, 2023.

I especially love the illustration towards the end that shows Piper and Dad embracing with all of Piper’s drawings of the memories of her and Mama swirling around them. The soft colors and the emotion of Piper and Dad are perfect! I’m so grateful to Michelle and the team at WorthyKids for believing in the story and bringing it to life!

This is such a poignant and stunning spread. Is there something you want your readers to know about Moonlight Memories?

Look for the hidden sparkle/swirls that appear in the art in the story. There’s a hidden meaning as to when they appear that I’d love to know how readers interpret. 😊

I have a good guess. But I too would love to hear the reader's thoughts. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Yes! I have another (unannounced) nonfiction picture book slated for 2024, which is about the human-animal bond. The book also has themes of loss and healing in it as well. I love nonfiction and animals so this was a fun one to write. I also tried out a new story structure, which was both challenging and exciting to create!

Sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Amanda standing in a hollow trunk area of a redwood in the Muir Woods National Monument in California.

One of my favorites is Muir Woods National Monument in California. Walking amongst hundred-year-old giant redwoods is a majestic feeling. I have yet to visit the Grand Canyon and would love to visit Zion National Park in Utah, too!

Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing/ illustrating or not?

This isn’t so much advice but a good reminder that was shared with me at that poetry retreat I mentioned earlier at Kripalu. Poet and facilitator, Victoria Erickson said, “Writing Should Feel Like Flying in Our Own Bodies…” I love this idea and the imagery that is provokes. Often we can forget what creating feels like and instead get stuck in our heads-putting pressure on ourselves to create. For me, when I’m in the flow of things, it is all consuming, freeing, and comforting. It brings me joy in my body and peace in my heart. I challenge everyone out there to get out of their heads, get into their bodies, and ask themselves—what does creativity feel like in your body? Whatever your answer is, make sure when you sit down to write, draw, or create, that you take a minute to channel that feeling before you begin and write from the inside out.

Book cover image of Moonlight Memories - girl sitting on a balcony gazing at the stars with a moon behind her.

That is a wonderful reminder. Thank you, Amanda for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Moonlight Memories.

To find out more about Amanda Davis, or contact her:

Visit Amanda's website for a beautiful book trailer and links to other blog tour stops!

Amanda's Moonlight Memories blog tour graphic listing blog stops. Links available on her website.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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