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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Joana Pastro

Originally from Brazil, Joana Pastro now lives in Florida with her amazing husband, her three extremely creative children, a rambunctious Morkie, and a needy Maltipoo.

For as long as Joana can remember, she wanted to be an artist of some kind. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. She had no idea how to start, so for seven years all she did was collect story ideas on a little notebook. Finally, one Sunday afternoon she decided to sit down and write… Soon Joana discovered that writing children’s books isn’t easy. But she didn’t give up. She became a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), joined a critique group, made many writing friends, took classes, workshops, went to conferences, and did a lot of reading, writing and revising. One day, she sent out a story to an agent. The agent loved it and decided to help Joana share her stories with the world. And now here is Joana, still chasing her dream.

Her debut picture book, Lillybelle, A Damsel Not In Distress was released by Boyds Mills Press in 2020 and now she’s getting ready to release her second picture book, Bisa’s Carnaval with Scholastic on December 7th.

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

It’s my pleasure, Maria. Thanks for having 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?)

Life takes the most unexpected turns, right? As you mentioned before, I’m an architect. I always dreamed of being one. However, after moving to the US my interests shifted, and I began searching for a different career. One day, my husband said I should write a book. That had never crossed my mind before. Still, it took me about 10 years and three children, to finally start pursuing it. At first, I committed to writing two days a week. Soon, I was writing every day! This, of course, isn’t limited to writing books. There’s also researching, reading, and the dreaded self-promoting to be done. Luckily, I have wonderful author friends holding my hand along the way, and I’m part of a fantastic promo group, the Soaring 20's. It’s an amazing group of extremely talented, hard-working authors, who keep me motivated and on track. The cherry on top? We’ve become great friends.

It is talented group of authors. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I lived in East Sussex, England for two years as a child. This experience had a huge impact on me. I believe that a lot of my interests, like my love for history, art and art history(!), stems from that time.

That would have been a lot of fun. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

That’d be a Brazilian cartoonist, Mauricio de Souza. He’s the creator of the Turma da Monica (Monica’s Gang) comic books. I had three huge drawers filled with them. The main characters were regular kids, with unique personalities and voice. Their little adventures usually happened around their neighborhood. They were filled with nonsense, kids being kids, and lots of laugh out loud moments. It was great!

Thank you for introducing me (us) to this comic series. So, what was the hardest part of writing Bisa’s Carnival?

Figuring out what was the story I wanted to tell was the hardest part. Once I realized I wanted to write about a young girl enjoying quality time with an older relative, the story poured out of me.

Finding that core, or the heart of the story, can be so frustrating and exhilarating. How long did it take from the first draft to publication? What was the hardest part of the publication process? The easiest?

Three years and a half. I wrote the first draft in June 2018, and it’s being published in a few weeks! The hardest part of the process was when my wonderful editor, Jess Harold, left Scholastic. Working with her was such a joy! The easiest part… I want to say working with Jess, but I already said that, so I’ll say trusting the illustrator. When I first saw Carolina’s studies for the book, I was in awe. She made a study package where she shared the reasoning behind the color palette choice, and character sketches not only for Bisa and Clara, but the whole family. She even had names for each of them! I was truly impressed.

Wow! That would have been something to see. Did anything about Carolina Coroa’s illustrations surprise you? What is your favorite spread?

Text © Joana Pastro, 2021. Image © Carolina Coroa, 2021.

After seeing her original overview, I knew she was perfect. I love everything about her work. She’s so talented! The wordless spread is amazing. It’s rich, colorful and vibrant! Another favorite is the spread where they’re heading back home to Bisa. It has a strong meaning to me as someone who lives far from their family.

I love all the costumes and aura of fun and celebration in this spread. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I’m working on edits for something that I’m not allowed to share yet.

I always have a few picture books in the works, but I’m at that stage where I need to decide which manuscript I’ll be focusing on next. I’ve been working on chapter books.

I have a board book series that I absolutely love and is out on submission (fingers crossed!).

And I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I’m not sure I’ll be winner. November is such a busy month. My critique group might rebel and have our own Novel Writing Month in March. We’ve decided it’s an easier month to do it.

Well, we'll have to keep our ears open for news. What have you been doing to stay inspired these days?

It’s been a challenging year. We moved in July, but I feel like we were in moving mode for most of the year. Having said that, to stay inspired, I’m always on alert. Anything can serve as inspiration if we look close enough. I observe the world around me, and the information I consume, with the clear intention of having ideas. That doesn’t mean that all my ideas are great, but I can always find a few good ones in that mix.

Last question, what is your favorite animal? Or one that you are enamored with right now. Why?

I’m so glad you asked which one “I’m enamored with right now,” because I’d have such a hard time picking a favorite. Right now, I’m obsessed with sloths. I love how they always seem to be smiling. It makes me smile too!

Sloths are awesome! Thank you, Joana for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Be sure stop by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Bisa's Carnaval.

To find out more about Joana Pastro, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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