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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with the Picture Book Scribblers

The Picture Book Scribblers is a creative group of picture book authors and illustrators publishing picture books in 2021, who’ve joined together to help promote their books. These are nine of the PBScribblers with books releasing this Spring.

Be sure to visit their website (, Instagram page (, and Twitter page ( to discover some amazing books and the talented creatives behind them.

Their website includes connections to these creatives, lists of their books, and upcoming events.

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or draw? How long have you been writing and/or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)

Lisa Katzenberger – It Will Be Ok (Sourcebooks 2/2/2021) - I have been writing since I was a kid! After college, I started writing short stories and novels. But when I had my kids in 2010, I switched my focus to writing for children. I do most of my writing just sitting on the couch in the quiet hours of the early morning before the rest of my family wakes up. I don’t have a favorite type of book to write, but I will say my stories fall into two buckets – silly, commercial picture books or quieter, lyrical works.

Lauren Kerstein - Home For A While (Magination Press 2/2/2021) - I am a Jersey girl who has lived in gorgeous Colorado since 1995. I quickly learned you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl. I write whenever I can (I try to “touch” my creative work every single day, if only for a moment). In fact, last night, I figured out the narrative arc of a story while in the bathtub. It was a good thing I had magazines handy to write on. I have been writing since about 1980, but really grabbed my reading dreams with a newfound ferocity approximately ten years ago. I love writing fiction, narrative nonfiction, heartfelt, and humorous stories. I love writing picture books, middle grade, YA, and am attempting to write an adult novel. More than anything, I want my writing my readers feel!

Charlotte Offsay – The Big Beach Cleanup (Albert Whitman 3/1/2021) – I am a children’s book author living in Los Angeles with my husband and two small children. I adore picture books and spend every free moment I can scrape together studying and writing them. I write wherever my heart takes me, which means I write a wide range of picture book subgenres (social justice, humor, lyrical, non-fiction etc.), but I try to make sure everything I write is filled with heart and a drop of humor. I began writing picture books in 2017 after taking my first picture book class through UCLA extension. I had always enjoyed writing and took the class on a whim. I fell in love with picture book writing in that class and spent the next couple of years taking more classes, reading every picture book I could get my hands on, honing my craft and finding my invaluable critique partners. The Big Beach Cleanup is my debut and I have two more picture books releasing over the next twelve months (to read more about my upcoming books please visit

Norene Paulson – What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair (Albert Whitman 3/1/2021) -The best thing for me is to have a deadline because I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I don’t have a specific writing routine although after overrunning the kitchen counter with my writing “stuff”, I now have a writing corner in our front room. I’m usually there doing something writing connected each day, but it’s not always creating or revising-related. I have been writing picture books for decades, literally. My favorite type of picture books to write are realistic fiction—stories about friendship, acceptance, and inclusion.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - Chicks Rock! (Abrams 3/2/2021) - I started writing in the fall of 2002 after my second child was born. I had two babies fourteen months apart and I had this idea that I could write with two babies in the house. (Turns out, it is difficult to do ANYTHING with two babies in the house!) It was having children in my life that made me realize that I had stories to tell.

I’m lucky enough to be a full-time author, so I write (or do writing-related professional activities, like school visits or teaching writing classes) every day. I typically like to snuggle up with my dog and my laptop and let the inspiration come to me!

As for my favorite type of book to write, it would be a tie between rhyming, funny picture books and chapter books about mer-creatures. Luckily, I get to do a lot of both!

Robin Newman – Don’t Call Me FuzzyButt! (Sleeping Bear 3/15/2021) - I’ve been writing seriously for about 14 years (which also happens to coincide with the age of my son). Most days, once my son is off to school, whether this is in-person or remote, I usually head to my itsy-bitsy shoebox of an office with my three furry coworkers, Madeleine, Cupcake and Mathilde, and try to get some writing done (or at least, something related to writing).

I love writing picture books and early chapter books. And I truly enjoy working on both kinds of books at the same time which seems to have a ying-yang therapeutic effect on me. E.g., where picture books have strict parameters on word counts and word choice, chapter books give you a bit more creative wiggle room.

Annelouise Mahoney – Julius and Macy: A Very Brave Night (Two Lions 4/1/2021) - I like to say I’m an illustrator first, writer second. My background is in animation and comics which began over 20 years ago. When my daughters were very small I enrolled in writing classes at UCLA extension and Gotham Writers Workshop. I continue to take part in writing workshops, webinars and intensives through SCBWI. I’ve been concentrating specifically on Picturebooks for about 10 years. I am completely enamored by children’s books and I love that feeling of getting lost in a story. I never lost that love of imaginative play and the spirit of childhood. I’m most productive if I have some quiet time to myself to settle in and focus. During the year of covid, finding that quiet hasn’t been easy with everyone home. It’s more about stealing moments to myself when I can, usually early morning before my family is up.

Michal Babay I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog (Albert Whitman 4/1/2021) - I’ve been writing since 2016. When I was still teaching, I’d use the days for thinking and the nights for writing. Of course, my own kids wanted attention too. So there wasn’t a huge amount of writing I could dedicate to writing. But...ten minutes here, twenty minutes there… it added up. Eventually I had a few stories ready to query! When my daughter got really sick, I left teaching to focus on her health. That year, I barely wrote at all - too many doctor and hospital visits. But I read every single funny picture book I could find, to remind myself that there was still joy out there.

These days, I write at the kitchen table with dogs underfoot. That way, I’m close to the coffee and snacks. It used to be pretty uncomfortable, but one year my husband surprised me with a laptop stand and attachable keyboard (to replace my usual pile of books that I’d been using to raise my computer up to eye level). Now I love my unusual writing spot!

Tracy Marchini – Princesses Can Fix It! (Page Street Kids 5/4/2021) - In second grade, I got in trouble for handing in a book report on a book that I myself had written, and I remember buying myself a typewriter around fifth grade so that I could feel like the writers I’d seen in books and movies! So I guess I’ve always been writing, and as an adult, I love writing for children because there’s so much room for awe and whimsy. Anything is possible in children’s literature - because for young children, anything is still possible for them. And I love that - I love being able to write from a sense of wonder!

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Lisa Katzenberger – I am the youngest of eight children. I learned a lot growing up just by observing my siblings. I was kind of quiet, so I think that seeped into my storytelling—just watching and listening to the world around you and see what you take in. [Perfect training]

Lauren Kerstein - Very few people know that I love to write on one leg. I have a standing desk, and I often put one leg up on the desk and write flamingo-style. I think this comes from years of gymnastics as a child. [That's awesome.]

Charlotte Offsay – I pour hot sauce on literally everything – even pasta! [Woah!]

Norene Paulson – Totally non-writing related, but I love leftovers. I’ve been known to make homemade soup or a casserole the day before I’m planning to serve it just because it tastes so much better when the flavors have time to mingle. My husband is an excellent cook, and some of our best meals originate from leftovers. Maybe I should write a leftovers cookbook. [Go for it! Please.]

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - I’m deathly afraid of heights, which I learned after I’d climbed the spiral stairs to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The trip back down to the ground involved another spiral staircase – which I descended by scooting down seated the entire way. (The people in line behind me were not pleased.) [*Oh, my!*]

Robin Newman – Years ago, I took a flying lesson and flew an airplane. And I still remember my instructor telling me to “Turn left at the mall.” And all I could think of was, “What mall?!? I don’t see a mall!” [*smile*]

Annelouise Mahoney – Oh my goodness. Well, I took a spontaneous trip after college with a girl my age that I didn’t know. We camped across the country eating rice and beans with hopes of becoming artists. We stayed with her cousin in Tucson, AZ for a few months until they settled into waitress jobs and I took the Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. I’ve been here ever since. I’d say it worked out. [Wow!]

Michal Babay - In high school, I was a red/black belt in taekwondo. So now, even though I haven’t practiced in years, those reflexes still kick in when someone surprises me. Luckily, I also learned how to pull my punches! Phew. [I bet you have a bunch of grateful friends.]

Tracy Marchini – When I was researching my family tree, I learned that Lady Diana and I share a seven-times-great grandmother (Cecily Garret), so I am a very, very, very, very distant cousin of a real Princess. [Nice!]

Now that we know a little bit about you all, what inspired you to write your book?

Lisa Katzenberger – It Will Be Ok (2/2/2021) - I saw a photoshopped picture of a giraffe in a tree and it made me wonder what could make a giraffe do that. I decided the giraffe saw a spider and was so scared and overwhelmed he climbed a tree to hide. The story was born!

Lauren Kerstein - Home For A While (2/2/2021) - Hope inspired me to write HOME FOR A WHILE. For years, I worked with children in and out of foster care. The children and families (foster and biological) with whom I worked made an indelible impression on my heart. They struggled to make meaning out of their worlds and of themselves. I wanted to write a book that not only paid homage to them, but also offered a way to help ALL children see their strengths.

Charlotte Offsay – The Big Beach Cleanup (3/1/2021) – I had wanted to write a story about little hands joining together to make big change for a while but couldn’t find the right way into the story. Then one day my son (then three-years-old) looked up at me and said, “I don’t feel like being a superhero today.” I couldn’t get his words out of my head and was still thinking about them a few days later when I was out walking with my kids and they questioned my throwing away some litter on the street. Suddenly the three concepts – not feeling like a superhero, doing our part to clean up after ourselves, and small hands joining together to change the world – merged and The Big Beach Cleanup was born.

Norene Paulson – What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair (3/1/2021) - In my small rural school district, all grade levels participate in Homecoming’s Spirit Week activities. There are always Dress-Up Days and always a Silly Hair Day. Being familiar with the National Alopeica Areata Foundation ( made me wonder the effect such a day had on kids experiencing hair loss due to alopecia or cancer treatment. When I read an article online about a young girl with alopecia who bedazzled her head in order to participate in an event similar to Silly Hair Day, I knew that was a story I wanted to tell.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - Chicks Rock! (3/2/2021) - Chicks Rock! is actually a follow up to an earlier book called Chicks Rule! Both are about chicks taking control of their futures and relying on their support systems to do so. Chicks Rule! was about tearing down “no chicks allowed” signs to clear the path for your dreams. It felt like a natural follow up for the next book to be able finding your voice and learning how to trust it. That’s how Chicks Rock! came together.

Robin Newman – Don’t Call Me FuzzyButt! (3/15/2021) - My son. I think he may have been in third grade at the time and he went through a terrible phase where he used to think it was super cool to say bad words. After all, these were words he wasn’t allowed to say that older kids and adults did say. And he’d hear these words everywhere—in the lunchroom, at recess, on the walk home from school. And once you’ve learned a new word (even a bad word), he was more than eager to give his new-found word a test drive to the extreme delight of his proud parents. Sigh.

My first drafts of Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! focused on using bad words. In fact, the book was originally titled, Bear Said a Bad Word. But as the book evolved during the revision process, it became clear that the story wasn’t just about saying bad words. It was about calling others names and the hurt feelings that resulted.

Annelouise Mahoney – Julius and Macy: A Very Brave Night (4/1/2021) - Julius and Macy: A Very Brave Night is fully inspired by my daughters and my young nephew. Watching their pretend adventures. Watching their desire to be brave and how they show their courage, watching them navigate friendships, compromise, their thirst for adventure and love of snacks. It’s all them.

Michal Babay - I'm A Gluten Sniffing Service Dog (4/1/2021) - My inspiration came from the darkest days of my life. I NEEDED to write a book about celiac disease and how devastating it was for my child. But I was scared. Every person with celiac has a different journey, and my daughter’s journey was extremely unusual and terrifying. I worried that sharing her story of physical and mental suffering would draw criticism from people who had had a safer journey to health. Eventually, however, the story had to come out - for MY mental health. Luckily, I have the wisest writing partners in the world. They suggested distancing myself from the story by telling it through the dog’s point of view. That did it! The Chewie in my book is based on our real-life service dog. The real Chewie is an extremely intelligent service dog, but he’s also one of the most ridiculous poodles I’ve ever met. When his vest goes on, Chewie’s all business. But as soon as that vest comes off, he pounces onto the other two dogs living here and flings toys everywhere. He even gets so excited that bouncing into walls doesn’t faze him! So writing this story was easy when I told it through Chewie’s voice.

My hope is to show readers how serious celiac disease is, how amazing service dogs are, and how it’s possible to get through almost anything with a best friend by your side. One sniff at a time.

Tracy Marchini – Princesses Can Fix it! (5/4/2021) - I have always loved the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and so when I was talking to my mom about fractured fairy tales, I gave the example of STEM plus The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which could be the Twelve Building Princesses - and then I was like, “No wait, I want to write that one!”

So many different and interesting ways to spark a story. Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

Lisa Katzenberger – I grew up reading a lot of the Little Golden Books, and my absolute favorite was The Monster At The End of This Book. It such a great example of tension-building. As I got older, I devoured every single Judy Blume book. She is a gem.

Lauren Kerstein - I loved the poetry of Shel Silverstein! I also loved Pippi Longstocking, The Giving Tree, and Judy Blume. I met some of my best friends between the pages of books.

Charlotte Offsay – When I was a young girl, I remember curling up with my family and listening to the adventures of Winnie The Pooh over and over again, and in the wise words of Winnie The Pooh, "sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."⁠

Norene Paulson – As a child I spent many hours solving mysteries with Nancy Drew. That series by Carolyn Keene was my favorite. I don’t think there was one mystery Nancy and I didn’t solve together. I also read a lot of comic books--those precursors to graphic novels. This will date me, but in my pre-teenager years, Archie and Veronica were two of my best friends.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - I still have the Little Golden book edition of The Monster at the End of This Book Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover from my own childhood. It’s battered and worn – and my children are not allowed to put their grubby little hands on it.

Robin Newman – When I was growing up, my twin sister and I lived in Paris and Normandy. So, hands down my favorite book was Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. (In fact, our school uniforms weren’t very different from the uniforms the girls wore in the book.)

Annelouise Mahoney – I absolutely adored Ezra Jack Keats, Hans Christian Anderson (I loved the story of The Princess and The Pea) And Ariene Mosel’s Tikki Tikki Tembo. I can still see the illustrations in my mind. Whatever the teachers read to us, I was all in, absolutely transfixed on the illustrations they showed us.

Michal Babay - Helen Lester! I love her blend of heart, silliness, and underlying truth. Plus, as a former teacher myself, she’s an inspiration to me. I love how she mined her classroom experiences for universal truths and stories to share. Although I adore all her books, my very favorites are A Porcupine Named Fluffy and Hooway For Wodney Wat. [You are the first to list 'Fluffy'! I love that book and her Tacky the Penguin books.]

Tracy Marchini – I loved, and still have, my copy of Chatty Chipmunk’s Nutty Day by Suzanne Gruber and Doug Cushman. I loved the open feel of the art and the alliteration in the text. It was just fun to read out loud!

Is there anything special you want your readers to know about your book? Do you have a favorite spread?

Text © Lisa Katzenberger, 2021. Image © Jaclyn Sinquett, 2021.

Lisa Katzenberger – It Will Be Ok (2/2/2021) - My absolute favorite spread is the very last one—Jaclyn Sinquett did an amazing job with the art. I think that spread really hits home the message I wanted to express in the story—how we can be there for a friend in need. [No, this is not that last spread...spoilers! You'll have t0 get the book to see why the last one is so wonderful.]

Lauren Kerstein - Home For A While (2/2/2021) - I want readers to know that this book is a window, mirror, and a sliding glass door. It is a place for children in the foster care system, children in difficult situations, and children struggling with tough feelings to truly see themselves, and discover their strengths.

Text © Lauren Kerstein, 2021. Image © Natalia Moore, 2021.

My favorite spread is the two-page nature scene in which Maggie and Calvin are standing together. I love the soft colors, reflection of light, and their newfound closeness. This spread really captures the growth of these characters.

Charlotte Offsay – The Big Beach Cleanup (3/1/2021) – I want young readers to know that they can make a difference. I hope The Big Beach Cleanup inspires them to think about the changes they want to see, and know that if they can convince enough people to join together then they just like Cora can create change.

Text © Charlotte Offsay, 2021. Image © Katie Rewse, 2021.

I adore Katie Rewse’s artwork which makes it very hard to pick a single favorite spread but if I had to pick just one it would be the scene where more and more hands join together on the beach – she beautifully captured the heart of the book in that spread.

Norene Paulson – What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair (3/1/2021) - I hope the story becomes a bright, “Hey, Bea looks like me” moment for kids with hair loss. I want them to be able to identify with a strong MC who would proudly wear a “Bold, Bald, and Beautiful” hat or T-shirt.

Text © Norene Paulson, 2021. Image © Camilla Carrossine, 2021.

My favorite spread is the final spread. It’s Bea’s “Bold, Bald, and Beautiful” moment and shows the importance of self-love, friendship, inclusion, and showing up for each other.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - Chicks Rock! (3/2/2021) - Finding your voice is one of the hardest parts of growing up. In fact, many of us don’t find our true voice until high school, college, or even beyond. This book is not just about the first time Rocker Chick finds her voice. It’s about the first time she learns to trust her own voice. Because what good is a voice or an opinion if you don’t have the confidence to share it?

Text © Sudipta Barhan-Quallen, 2021. Image © Renée Kurilla, 2021.

This is my favorite spread, because it so perfectly captures a feeling we’ve all had at least once.

Robin Newman – Don’t Call Me FuzzyButt! (3/15/2021) - I hope children who read my book will realize that words are powerful. Words can be uplifting and supportive, but at the same time they can be extremely hurtful. One needs to understand that the words we use will impact others and therefore, they must be used and chosen carefully.

Text © Robin Newman, 2021. Image © Susan Batori, 2021.

Do I have a favorite spread in the book? Hmm. . . . Isn’t that like asking if I have a favorite child or dog? I love ALL of Susan Batori’s work. She did an AMAZING job capturing the essence of the text. But if I were forced to choose one spread, I would say it is the one below because it’s the heart of the conflict in the story.

Annelouise Mahoney – Julius and Macy: A Very Brave Night (4/1/2021) - I want my readers to know it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to find yourself in an unfamiliar place and I hope when you do, you know you have the courage to navigate your way to where you need to be.

Michal Babay - I'm A Gluten Sniffing Service Dog (4/1/2021) - This book is my heart on a page. I love how Chewie’s true gooberiness shines through, along with his huge heart.

Text © Michal Baby, 2021. Image © Ela Smietanka, 2021.

The spread that was hardest for me to write is when Alice comes back to visit Chewie, but she’s so sick and sad that she can’t even throw the ball for him anymore. I squeezed five years of pain, suffering, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness into that spread. My biggest challenge was to show her sadness in a kid-relatable way, while at the same time giving myself permission NOT to share everything. I think it worked out. Because the uplifting final page of the whole book brings me great joy every time I look at it. Ela’s illustration of Chewie and Alice nose to nose, healthy and happy, is everything I’ve ever hoped and dreamed for my book (and my child).

Tracy Marchini – Princesses Can Fix it! (5/4/2021) - What I wanted to tell young readers was that as a girl, you don’t have to cast off all things feminine in order to also pursue interests that are traditionally considered masculine. It’s okay to love pink and love science! (And maybe that was something I needed to hear myself, as I went through a phase where I thought I needed to get rid of the pink in my wardrobe to be considered seriously. But the pink is back for me!) The story also shows that rigid gender roles are harmful for boys as well. The Prince has his own pastime that he feels he can’t do around the King, and by the end, everybody gets to be themselves - regardless of what they’re supposed to like or do.

Text © Tracy Marchini, 2021. Image © Julia Christians, 2021.

My favorite spread is the one where Princesses Harriet, Lila and Margaret are full of confidence and giving a sort of Rosie the Riverter-esque pose after a job well done.

I think these all sound like wonderful books. Here's an oddball question , if you could meet anyone (real or literary), who would that be?

Lisa Katzenberger – Judy Blume for sure!

Lauren Kerstein - I would’ve loved to have met Shirley Chisholm. Her grit, determination, and true desire to make real changes was incredibly inspiring. The difference she made in the world is so often underestimated. I would’ve loved to talk with her about the way she saw the world, and the thoughts she had about how to effect true change.

Charlotte Offsay – Without question, Julia Donaldson! Her brilliant storytelling combined with her phenomenal rhymes and ability to create an epic read-aloud that have children begging you to read it again, is pure genius. I adore so many of her books but Room on the Broom, What the Ladybird Heard and The Gruffalo are three of my favorites. I would love to meet her in real life!

Norene Paulson – I would love to sit down with Mercer Mayer and talk kid lit and let him know the role he played in where I am today. Reading his Little Critter books to my two young sons made me fall in love with picture books. The marriage between his words and his art was my inspiration and made me think, “I want to do that.”

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - That would be a pretty long list…I’d love to chat with so many people. Cleopatra (the real one and Shakespeare’s version). Shakespeare. Enola Holmes from the Nancy Springer books. Sherlock Holmes. Jim Henson. Miss Piggy. Hillary Clinton (I’ve met her once, but it was for 45 seconds, so I think it’s likely we didn’t have a completely substantive conversation). Daniel Craig (less for conversation and more because I’m a giant fan). Belva Lockwood. Mary W. Jackson. The list would go on and on!

Robin Newman Great question! I would love to meet the legendary children’s book editor, Ursula Nordstrom. [This is a new one!]

Annelouise Mahoney – Oh wow. Can I pick two? I’d absolutely love to meet Holly Hobbie. I’ve adored her work for so many years. My second, which is impossible, would be to meet Beatrix Potter. I’d have so many questions for her but would be delighted to just meet her and say hello.

Michal Babay - This is going to be a strange answer, since we’re discussing kidlit. But if I could meet anyone from history, it would be Elie Wiesel. As the child of a holocaust survivor myself, his writing and life-legacy have impacted me immensely. I’d like to meet him to say “thank you” for showing me how to put pain down on paper, and how to live my life with courage. He’s an inspiration in every way possible.

Tracy Marchini – I would have loved to have had a conversation with Marie Curie. Not only was she the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, but she was the first person to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields (physics and chemistry). In fifth grade I was Marie Curie for the science fair, and I’ve always been fascinated by her perseverance, intellect, and generosity.

What a great list of amazing people! How are you staying creative these days? Are you doing anything special to “prime the pump”?

Lisa Katzenberger – I’ve really had to push myself during the pandemic to find time to write and still create with all the heaviness in the world right now. And with my kids home for e-learning in the afternoons, my free writing time has been cut drastically. I just keep trying to open the laptop and write or revise something, anything each day. Just a little bit at a time can add up.

Lauren Kerstein - Staying creative isn’t always easy at all. Lately, I’ve been saying to myself, “I’m going to touch my work,” or “I’m going to play with this idea” to keep myself motivated. I am a lifelong perfectionist and hold myself to terribly high standards. The pandemic didn’t help this. If anything it pushed me to hold myself to unreasonable standards. So instead of succumbing to that kind of pressure, I decided to look at my creative work as play, as enriching, as rewarding, and as fun. It has helped me to be more creative and to let my mind run free instead of straight toward my inner critic.

Charlotte Offsay – I wish I had a good answer for this one but to be honest these days there isn’t any one particular thing. At the moment, my five and six-year-old are home with me full time for virtual learning which means creativity happens in the cracks. I try to be patient with myself, scribble ideas or phrases down when they come to me (often inspired by my children!) and not worry too much about where my next idea will come from. Usually my stories crawl under my skin at around 4am and demand to be written immediately and so I do what I can to get them out when inspiration hits and then work on them when I have the time/energy. If I am feeling out of ideas and find myself with a spare moment I will usually pick up a stack of picture books I have been dying to read or catch up on inspiring webinars (from writers, editors, agents I admire) which will usually get the juices following again.

Norene Paulson – With two books releasing in the span of four months, it’s been hard to focus on much else. I find most of my current creativity is wrapped up in finding ways to promote the books which is a bit intimidating because I’m not comfortable with self-promotion. Once things settle down, I look forward to relaxing and letting the ideas flow again. I have several WIPs badly in need of attention.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - The best thing I’ve done to stay creative is to turn off the news and focus on good things. A great way to find those good things is hashtag surfing on Instagram. There are so many cute baby animals I have not been paying enough attention to!!

Robin Newman – I feel like I’m in triage mode when it comes to creativity these days. I’ve been working on a lot of revisions but I’ll be honest, focusing on new projects has been challenging. Sigh.

Annelouise Mahoney – I signed up for Tara Lazar’s Storystorm. I was unable to keep up but I go back and read her blog posts, which are wonderfully inspiring. I’ve also been painting with my youngest daughter, just for fun, just exploring paints and brushes and enjoying our time together. Playing.

Michal Babay - Funny you should ask! I ran out of ideas recently (pandemic brain!) and asked my 16 year old son to give me an animal to use as a main character. So he texted me a picture of a donkey in the water. Whaaaa!?! And when I asked if the donkey MINDED being in the water, he said no. The guy loved it and loved himself. Soooooo, challenge… accepted! Having teenagers with wacky ideas definitely helps me stay creative.

Tracy Marchini – Oh dear. I think my creativity has gone into baking, to be honest. We’ve watched all the seasons of The Great British Baking Show and I’ve been making bread, breadsticks, dinner rolls, and chicken pot pies. I’m hoping it transfers over to my writing at some point!

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

Lisa Katzenberger – I love the Okapi. There is a great Okapi exhibit at my local zoo that we visit frequently. The Oakpi has stripes of a zebra, but is most closely related to the giraffe. I feel like it’s an oddball animal, maybe not so sure of where it fits in. I’ve been trying to write a story about it for a few years!

Lauren Kerstein - I love ALL animals! It is really tough for me to pick a favorite. But since it is much more satisfying to actually pick one, I’d have to say elephants. They are brilliant animals. Their ability to feel all the feels, care for their herd, and remember events is astounding. Their beauty, wisdom, and caring is unparalleled. I am just in awe of their complexities and compassion.

Charlotte Offsay – My favorite animals have always been Elephants. They are adorable, playful and capable of a wide range of complex emotions such as joy, playfulness, compassion, grief and mourning.

Norene Paulson – I’m an animal lover, but I have a particular soft-spot for rescue dogs. We’ve had up to three dogs at a time…pure-breeds, strays who showed up and stayed, and rescue dogs. Our current rescue, Ellie, is the latest addition to the family and our most troubled. Whatever happened to her in her first five years has made her fearful of everything and afraid of everyone, but we’re working on that and she’s slowly (like taking wombly baby steps) beginning to trust us. There’s a picture book buried somewhere in this experience I’m sure, maybe entitled I Do NOT Want to Be Your Pet. Well, I think she really does, she just doesn’t know how…yet.

Sudipta Barhan-Quallen - My favorite animal is a pug, because we actually have the MOST ADORABLE pug on earth. Don’t believe me? As her 13,000 Instagram fans! Yes, it’s true – my dog (@foxyroxiethepug) is an Instagram micro influencer. Creating content for her and managing her image is a very big job!

Robin Newman – Since I’m getting the evil eye from each one of my furry coworkers, I’m going to say a dog.


Annelouise Mahoney – Ohh, that is hard! I’m an animal lover. If I really have to pick one, it’s a bunny. I love our little dwarf rabbit. He’s moody, particular, and very handsome. He explores the house with the most adorable curiosity and I adore him.

Michal Babay - Dogs. We have three dogs, a cat, a bearded dragon, and a snail (we had a fish last month, but tragically, we no longer do). Out of all these cute creatures, the ones who lift me up after a hard day and love me all the time, no questions asked, are the dogs. Having three dogs excited to see you, every minute of every day, is the best mood-lifter in the world!

Tracy Marchini – Ducks - because you can’t not smile when you’re looking at a duckling. Also, let me share some excellent duck facts with you: 1.) Ducks can fly at 55 mph. 2.) Ducks make excellent guard “dogs” - domesticated ducks are protective of their families and can break a man’s arm with their wing. (I cannot even imagine having to tell someone that a duck broke your arm.) 3.) Ducks are born knowing how to feed themselves. 4.) Wood ducks are born in a nest high in a tree, and their mother goes to a nearby body of water and calls until they jump out. (You can find video of this from PBS’s DUCKumentary. It’s amazing!)

Thank you all for giving us a little peek into you and your books. Wishing you all great success and fun book launches.

Thank you, Maria.

To learn more about these authors, visit the Picture Book Scribblers @


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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