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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - LINDA MARSHALL

I first met Linda online during a Children's Book Academy course. And then we met in person in New York City and talked non-stop for several hours about creativity, writing, and life. I'm so happy to feature Linda on the blog today where she shares her thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES -- Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

First, thank you, Melissa, for inviting me to post on your blog. What an honor! Now, for the hard part…the questions.

My stories come from everywhere . . . from the air we breathe (and hope it’s clean enough to breathe), from the families that created us, from hopes, dreams and fears. They also come from my humorous, sometimes upside-down, way of seeing the world. I’m an optimistic pessimist . . . Don’t worry. Things WILL get worse. :) Mostly, though, I try to be uplifting and, of course, honest.

MOMMY, BABY, AND ME (Peter Pauper Press, 2017, with adorable illustrations by Ged Adamson, is an exploration of feelings. On the one hand, it’s about how a dog feels when its best friend (aka “Mommy”) gets her own new best friend (aka “Daddy”) and then, together, those two best friends – Mommy and Daddy – get an even better friend (“Baby”). But it’s also about how children feel when a new baby comes. Or how adults feel when _____ (fill in the blank, we’ve all been there). MOMMY, BABY, AND ME was named Adirondack Center for Writing Best Children’s Book of 2017.

I wrote the bilingual, Américas Award Commended RAINBOW WEAVER, (Lee & Low, 2016, with vivid illustrations by Elisa Chavarri, to help the Mayan weavers of Guatemala. A dear friend of mine, who is originally from Guatemala, left her home country because of the dangers there. She founded an organization called Mayan Hands ( and I wanted to help her help the weavers. RAINBOW WEAVER was a Junior Library Guild selection.

KINDERGARTEN IS COOL! with warm, retro illustrations by Chris Chatterton ( (Scholastic, 2016) was written in celebration of my granddaughter’s first day of kindergarten. As I wrote it, I remembered my own kindergarten days, especially a big wooden “milk truck” cart that had chocolate milk. How cool is that!

Several of my stories have Jewish roots and/or themes. In TALIA AND THE RUDE VEGETABLES (KarBen/Lerner, 2011), a city girl misunderstands her grandmother’s request to go to the garden to get root vegetables. As she searches for – and gathers – rude vegetables, she wonders what makes a vegetable rude. Does it push aside its brothers and sisters? Talk back to its parents? With the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, coming, Talia recognizes some of the things she’s done wrong. She also gives the rude vegetables to her grandmother and the perfect vegetables to the rabbi – so a hungry family can enjoy them.

In TALIA AND THE (VERY) YUM! Kippur (KarBen/Lerner, 2015), the same Talia misunderstands that Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, is called YUM! Kippur.

Lately, I’ve been working on non-fiction projects, primarily biographies. Three are forthcoming in 2020. My process is, first, to read and research. Then, more research. And still more. I thoroughly enjoy research (actually, I enjoy all parts of the writing process . . . especially revision). I take copious notes, as if I’m working on a Ph.D. dissertation (but one that won’t take seven years) and try not to write anything until I can feel for – and with – my subject. It’s a process.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

Thing is, I never thought about myself as creative and, now that I’m an actual, factual writer, I’m still kind of surprised that other people think I’m creative. I always thought that I just didn’t quite fit in. I still kind of think that. On the other hand, it’s comforting to have the word “creative” to wrap myself in. It’s a nice security blanket. Which reminds me . . . I once heard a talk by David Brooks. He mentioned having a “writer’s personality” and described it. Aha, I thought. That’s me, too!

As for “showcasing” my creative side, I take walks, and swim, and write poetry. These are all quiet, introspective activities so I can think and let my mind wander. For actual “showcasing” . . . Hmmm . . . I wear bright scarves and colorful socks. I like my socks to match, even though someone once told me that wearing matching socks stifles creativity.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

I think we all carry the children we once were inside us. When I write, I try to tap into that space. I also have theoretical as well as practical knowledge about child development and parenting education. In my academic work (I’m a not-quite-Ph.D. Anthropologist), I studied attitudes toward child-rearing and education in different cultural contexts. I also taught Early Childhood Education as well as Parenting Education for many years. I loved (and still love) being in the classroom with young children. All that helps. My sense of humor helps, too.

I love being around other Kidlit people. I’m involved in my SCBWI chapter and in two critique groups (neither of which meets often). I’ll be doing a Skype visit soon for another SCBWI group. I often contribute to the SCBWI Bulletin (check out the Spring 2018 issue for my latest piece, “Drawing on the Write Side of the Brain”).

Recently, I spent two weeks in England and Scotland with about 27 other children’s authors and illustrators (thank you, Kindling Words, for putting this together!). One week was a “literary ramble,” visiting places relating to UK authors, including: J.K. Rowling, Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Graham. The second was a writing retreat in a Scottish castle. Two weeks abroad doing kidlit things…Talk about “connecting” to the kidlit community!

I feel very fortunate to be part of this wonderful community. I am grateful beyond words.


Linda Marshall – former sheep raiser, chicken-farmer, bookstore-owner, early childhood educator – now writes picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. She and her husband still live on their (now sheep-less) Hudson River valley farm. They have four grown children and a gaggle of grandchildren. They hope, some day, to relocate to an island in the south where they can walk . . . and walk . . . and walk. Manhattan!


FB: @LindaMarshallBooks

Twitter: @L_E_Marshall


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