The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Eve Nadel Catarevas
Eve Nadel Catarevas always loved to write. There was her newsletter for the kids in her Connecticut neighborhood when she was eight, featuring the “Best Backyards for Sledding” report, tips on houses to avoid on Halloween (pencils, popcorn balls, APPLES!), which raspberry patches were surrounded by poison ivy, and updates on how many more Bazooka Joe bubble gum comics she needed for that itty-bitty, fits-in-the-palm-of your-hand spy camera.
It wasn’t until she began writing about little-known historical figures that she truly found her sweet spot. Discovering them, dusting them off and sharing their achievements with others was a turning point. They’ve been educational for her as well, and she’s planning to continue bringing their inspirational stories to light.
Eve lives in Westport, Connecticut with two- and four-legged family members.
Her debut picture book, Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo, releases May 1st.
Welcome Eve, 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?)
I’ve been writing children’s literature for 15 years. I do most of my research hunkered down in the living room buried in biographies, notebooks and dozens of pencils sharpened to within an inch of their leaden lives (truth bomb: my favorite appliance is the electric sharpener). When I’ve completed the research ‘phase,’ I head to my writing studio (okay, it’s the basement, but that’s where my computer is -- wedged between my son’s old toddler bed and several pet carriers). I’ll spend four to five hours a day writing, editing and hand-wringing.
I’d flirted with the idea of writing kidlit for as long as I can remember, but didn’t get serious about it until one day at my local library I spotted the name of an old boyfriend on the spine of a book. It hit me like a ton of … books. If he could do it, so could I.
Picture book biographies are my specialty. I enjoy coaxing change-makers out of the shadows and giving them depth and dimension. It’s like a treasure hunt. I flush them out of obituaries, books, newspapers, podcasts, blogs. Once I’ve got someone in my sights, I need to decide if they’ve got kid-appeal. Then I start digging, hoping there’s enough there there!
Nice and just like him, you did it too! What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I am a demon on stilts.
That sounds like fun! What was your inspiration for Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo?
I learned about Rena in her New York Times obituary back in 2009 and couldn’t stop thinking about her. She seemed larger than life. I wanted to know everything about her and was thrilled when I found her daughter.
Wow, 13 years! How awesome that you connected with her daughter. How many drafts, or revisions did Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo take from idea spark to publication?
Truthfully, I lost track. I’d say somewhere between 11 and 15.
What was the hardest part of writing Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo?
Rena’s raison d’etre was making sure women’s judo become an Olympic sport. She was an absolute force of nature. Communicating her relentless drive was essential to sharing her story.
I think you definitely succeeded in capturing her focused drive and determination. Who was your favorite author, illustrator and/or what was your favorite book as a child?
“The Five Chinese Brothers” (Dark. I know!)
When you first saw Martina Peluso’s illustrations, was there anything that surprised you? What is your favorite spread in the book?
Text © Eve Nadel Catarevas, 2022. Image © Martina Peluso, 2022.
To me, Martina’s unique style is all in the eyes. My favorite piece of artwork is the Coney Island boardwalk scene. It’s teeming with life.
This is a fun image! What’s something you want your readers to know about or gain from Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo?
Rena’s true essence was the need to believe in yourself and to persevere, no matter how often somebody gets in your way and says, “No, you can’t.” She was all about women gaining the confidence to shout, “Oh yes I can. Watch me!”
I loved that about her and her desire to help other women, not just herself. How are you staying creative these days? What are you doing to keep being inspired?
Reading. I consume memoirs, thrillers, newspapers, magazines, and of course, children’s books because as we all know, “Ya gotta read what you write!”
Do you want to share anything about your next picture book, Wonderful Hair: The Beauty of Annie Malone, illustrated by Felicia Marshall, which is being released in October?
Of all the people I’ve written about (I’ve got a whole file of unpublished picture book biographies), Annie Malone is the subject nearest and dearest to me. She’s been relegated to the margins of history for far too long. I’m delighted to shepherd this hidden maverick into the spotlight.
So - here's the book's synopsis to get you excited for its release, too:
She turned her personally developed hair care products into a successful industry, including schools that taught the Poro method in her Poro Colleges. One of her students was the much more famous Madam C.J. Walker. She not only encouraged Black women to feel good about their hair, she showed them how to be entrepreneurs.
Annie Turnbo Malone is an inspiring model and an important part of women’s history and Black history who deserves to be better known.
Are there any other projects you are working on now about which you can share a tidbit?
I’m working on a book about a girl who despite great bias, became a beloved star, eventually forming an eponymous dance company.
That sounds fascinating. We'll have to watch for news about this book's release. What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?
I lived in New York City for many years. I played soccer and tennis in Central Park, attended concerts there and spent hours people- and dog-watching. It felt like my own backyard -- if my backyard spanned 843 acres and was filled with strangers.
Thank you Eve for stopping by to share about yourself and your debut picture book.
Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo,
To find out more about Eve Nadel Catarevas, or contact her: