3 Question Interview - Anitra Rowe Schulte
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
I'm so happy to feature my writing friend Anitra Rowe Schulte on the blog today. Anitra's debut picture book, DANCING WITH DADDY (illustrated by Ziyue Chen, Two Lions) releases in December 2021. Anitra is passionate about the kidlit world, and she offers helpful advice about making the most of opportunities in the community. Read on for Anitra's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome, Anitra!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
My stories tend to be inspired by my family and our everyday life, or by my own childhood and perspective as an introspective, creative middle child. No matter the subject or concept, my stories tend to be rooted in a universal experience and a very real examined emotion – an excitement, a worry, a frustration, a curiosity, a love.
Sometimes the plot and the characters of my stories remain contemporary and literal, throughout the revision process. This was the case with my debut, DANCING WITH DADDY, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (Two Lions). I wrote this story as my husband was preparing to take all three of our girls to our local father-daughter dance. Everything in DANCING WITH DADDY is what I imagined might take place on this exciting night, based upon my girls’ personalities and interests.
Other times, I abstract the core story elements, landing in a place that’s more symbolic and literary. That is the case with my second picture book, WILLOW AND BUNNY, illustrated by Christopher Denise (Two Lions). I wanted to explore the feelings that people and communities wade through during times of trauma, as well as the brave pursuit of hope in the face of destruction. But I wanted to do so with a bit of distance. The themes and emotions are immediately recognizable, but the woodland setting and traditional story structure create a more gentle, timeless delivery.
When crafting stories, most of my work comes out in a traditional-meets-lyrical style. Synthesizing emotions and bringing things to a satisfying resolution give me peace – in my life and in my writing work, too. The trials that my characters face are very real, but I absolutely have to create endings that land on solid ground and deliver hope.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
Writing is my non-negotiable joy. I will make or find time for it, anytime and anywhere. My husband and I had our girls in quick succession, 18 months between each girl, and there has never been extra time, so to speak. But I absolutely need to write for sanity and happiness, so I excavate write time and build barriers around it. I love my family more than anything and their needs are paramount to me, so that usually means getting up early or staying up late, or writing in my mini-van during slivers of downtime when shuttling the kids to appointments and activities.
I truthfully don’t know how I feel about anything until I write about it. So writing for me is part creative expression and part therapy, I think! I’m also really inspired by the juxtaposition of imagery and poignant text or lyrics. Film, theater, magazines and picture books are my very favorite art forms and types of communication. This powerful pairing – of striking visuals and gorgeous words - imprints the heart in such an unparalleled way. I’ve always wanted to live in one of these genres, professionally, so arriving here in the picture book landscape is an absolute dream come true.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
The young readers in my house – ages 6, 8 and 9 – are my primary audience. They’ve suffered through so many read alouds of early drafts! This summer, I’ve also had the chance to share DANCING WITH DADDY at several live story times. These have been incredible! One of my main hopes with my debut book is that children will lean into Elsie, the main character, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, and get to know her. So it’s been a delight to see children listening so intently and asking questions to better understand her experience.
Connecting with the kidlit community is one of my favorite things about this entire journey. I love reviewing books and interviewing authors on my blog. This practice has deepened my understanding of my craft and also helped me form relationships with creators that I greatly admire. About five years ago, when I saw kidlit authors rallying to raise funds for several wonderful causes, I wondered if creators also might be interested in supporting young readers in Chicago. This led to #HolidayBookDriveChi, an annual book drive that has delivered thousands of new children’s books to the young scholars served by literacy non-profit Leading with Literacy in the Bronzeville neighborhood. This event has provided another great environment for meeting other authors and their publishers, as we work toward a common goal.
My debut group, PB Debut Troupe 21, has been an enormous support over the past year. (Check out their books HERE!) It’s so exciting to celebrate each other’s work, and share ideas and trouble shoot challenges, in our debut year. Twitter is definitely the kidlit lunchroom and playground. It’s how I hear of new books, cheer on everyone’s good news, and engage in communities, such as 12x12 Challenge and PBChat. I encourage anyone who wants to make community part of their journey to jump in and engage. If you like someone’s work, don’t be shy to say so. It means the world! Few people in your family and friend groups can understand the ins and outs of publishing. Having kidlit friends, who know what you’re going through, eases the bumps in the road and makes it so much more fun, too.
Anitra Rowe Schulte is a children’s book author with two upcoming picture books. Her debut, DANCING WITH DADDY, is illustrated by Ziyue Chen (Dec. 1, 2021 / Two Lions), and her second book, WILLOW AND BUNNY, is illustrated by Christopher Denise (Spring 2022 / Two Lions). Anitra interviews authors and blogs about picture books at www.anitraroweschulte.com and organizes an annual Holiday Book Drive that connects Chicago children with new books. Anitra is a member of 12x12 and the groups PB Debut Troupe 21 and PB Tales of 2022. She lives with her husband, three daughters and kitty Pancake near Chicago, IL.
CONNECT WITH ANITRA:
o Website: https://www.anitraroweschulte.com/
o Twitter: @anitraschulte
o Instagram: @anitraroweschulte