I'm so happy to be hosting Julie Pepper's first blog interview! I really look forward to the release of Julie's debut picture book, IT'S TIME, coming from Clear Fork Publishing tomorrow, August 8, 2017! Anne Steele's illustrations look beautiful! I enjoyed getting to know my Spork Sister through our conversation about stories, creativity, and connection.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
My children have been the inspiration for most of my stories. I have a 7 year-old daughter, and 4 ½ year-old boy and girl twins. It’s Time, my debut picture book, came to me in the shower. I do my best thinking in the shower! I thought about how my son really came into his own, once he started preschool. His older sister had been in school for awhile, and his twin is on the Autism spectrum, so she had started preschool with support services earlier than he did. He just loved preschool from the get-go. As a teacher myself, I was with my own class on his first day of school. My husband was able to be there for him, so I only felt 90% mom-guilty for not being there. My shower thought was, "What did it look like through his eyes on that morning?" That thought then morphed into, wouldn’t seeing a child’s preparation for the first day of school through his/her eyes make a sweet little picture book? The craziest thing is that It’s Time is available on August 8th...which also happens to be my first day teaching this school year. It wasn’t planned! Just a fun coincidence.
The process for It’s Time was a pretty neat one. The book is a minimal word picture book. I really wanted the focus to be on what the child was seeing, rather than what was being said. You never see the main character in the story, as everything is from his viewpoint. When Callie at Clear Fork Publishing said she liked my idea and wanted me to submit my book for review, I needed to find someone to help sketch out my thoughts, since I’m not an illustrator. I know this isn’t the normal process for picture books. You usually submit the manuscript, and the illustrator creates images from the text. Since the text was sparse, I had to map out what the child was seeing for each page. I asked my friend, Anne Steele, if she wanted to help. Anne and I grew up in Amador County together, and I knew of her art through Facebook. She said she would, and Clear Fork signed with Anne as well. Very exciting!
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
When I was an undergrad at UC Davis, I wrote a humor column for our newspaper called Pepp Talk. This was a creative outlet for me, and I thought I would pursue some type of writing after college. Then this thing called the Internet exploded and it seemed everyone was writing and blogging. I felt like I would be lost in all of that. So, I put writing on the back-burner for a while.
My main creative outlet has always been theater. I did many plays and musicals growing up, and I love to teach drama improv games to my 5th graders and read/write readers’ theater scripts with them.
My story writing really began at the end of last year. It’s been a fun way to keep me on my creative toes!
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the kidlit community?
It’s Time is very simple and sweet, but most of what I write is humorous and/or a little quirky. I’m hoping to connect with my young readers through laughter and fun. I’ve been a 5th grade teacher for 10 years, and some of the best times we have shared together is when I’ve read a humorous picture book with my group. Picture books are a great way to build community in upper elementary classrooms, and I’m so excited to share my stories with my students.
I am new to the kidlit community, and I am learning as I go. Picture book author, Joanna Rowland, has been my number one go-to gal. We were in the same teaching cohort years ago, and it’s through her post on Facebook about her upcoming book, The Monstructor, that I found out about Clear Fork Publishing. I have also received a lot of guidance from many other authors signed with Clear Fork. Everyone is so supportive and kind. In addition, I recently found out about Teachers Write. It’s a virtual summer writing camp for librarians and teachers. Through this forum, Josh Funk of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast fame critiqued an excerpt of a picture book manuscript I’m working on. That was pretty amazing. I’m also an SCBWI member and I will be attending my first conference in October. Finally, I am learning a lot through kidlit groups on Facebook and connecting with others on Twitter. I’m looking forward to building more connections on this writing journey.
Julie lives in Davis, California with her husband and three children. She loves going to music, theater, and comedy shows. Julie is a National Board Certified teacher who holds an M.A.Ed. with an emphasis in Arts in Education. She has been teaching 5th grade in Rio Linda for 10 years, and adores her 5thies.
Her second picture book, Cannonball, will make a splash in 2018.
CONNECT WITH JULIE:
Find Julie's debut picture book at: https://www.amazon.com/Its-Time-Julie-Pepper/dp/1946101273/
Facebook: Julie Pepper
Julie - thanks for sharing your thoughts about stories, creativity, and connection! I look forward to reading more of your work!