3 Question Interview - CANDICE MARLEY CONNER
My good friend, author Candice Marley Conner, is on the blog today! I'm so excited about her wonderful new book, CHOMPSEY CHOMPS BOOKS, illustrated by Alaina Luise (Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing, 2021). I love how Candice was inspired by books, book clubs, and her volunteer work as a reading buddy, and how she incorporated animals from her home state of Alabama. Candice chats about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome, Candice!
Thank you so much for having me on your Writing Life blog, Melissa!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Ever since I participated in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and made inspiration intentional, anything I see and hear has the potential to grow into a story. My latest picture book, Chompsey Chomps Books, about a frustrated alligator who wants to love books as much as his book club swamp friends do, was inspired by my time as a Reading Buddy at a local elementary school. I was blown away by the hard work and total dedication to learning to read dyslexic children must overcome.
Books inspire me as well so when I read Annie Silvestro’s Bunny’s Book Club, I was totally charmed by the idea of woodland animals sneaking books from the library. Alligators are one of my favorite animals and I spent a lot of time in swamps as a child growing up in rural Alabama, so when I connected the ideas and made a book club the catalyst for an alligator who likes to chomp things, Chompsey was born! Plus, I get to use gator-centric puns which always makes me happy.
Because understanding the way dyslexic readers process words and letters, and acknowledging their intelligence is so important to opening book covers and nurturing lifelong readers, I submitted this manuscript to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing since their books are printed in dyslexie font. This font is weighted to help with swapping to make reading more accessible to all—the dyslexic parents and child readers, to the neurotypical children since swapping usually occurs until they reach seven or eight years old. MCP is the perfect home for Chompsey.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
Speaking of your themes, creativity is an act of connection. I had no idea that when I was a kid building forts deep in the swamps, armed with Nancy Drew books, the setting I loved so much would feature prevalently in my writing. Not only in Chompsey, but also in my young adult Southern mystery, The Existence of Bea Pearl, which gets much of its spooky vibes from the swamp and river settings. The way I use setting as its own character informs my writing by worming its way into every simile and metaphor I use, to further sink the reader into the story.
My other creative pursuit besides writing is making beeswax lotion bars. It’s immediate gratification (as opposed to the years publishing can take) and I enjoy creating different scent blends from essential oils (for instance, Bea Pearl’s blend is geranium, pine, and cedarwood.) Rendering beeswax makes my kitchen smell amazing! It’s tucked itself into my writing too—the spooky middle grade I’m working on right now has a character whose mother makes botanical concoctions!
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
The pandemic has kept me from connecting with young readers as much as I’d like, but I was able to have an in-person story time and crafts for my debut picture book, Sassafras and Her Teeny Tiny Tail. It was so much fun making origami squirrels with the children as my kids and I love some arts-n-crafts. I have an upcoming Not-So-Spooky Storytime planned for Chompsey with alligator crafts and costumes. Before the pandemic, I helped give a summer workshop for nine to twelve year-old writers at a local bookstore and I hope to be able to do that again. It was the best seeing their eyes light up with brainstorming ideas.
The kidlit community is absolutely amazing. I’m so grateful to the bloggers, supporters, and encouragers I’ve met online and in person. Twitter was the first place I began to branch out so I try to give back to the community by offering critique prizes for various twitter contests, like #KidlitZombieWeek and #FallWritingFrenzy. I’m also one-sixth of the ladies behind the Wonder of Words blog where we spotlight various children’s books and their creators. As an active member of SCBWI, I serve my area writers as a Local Liaison.
Social media makes it easy to connect to the writing community—even for an introvert like myself!
Thank you for giving me space to share my thoughts on stories, creativity, and connection, Melissa!
Growing up between swamps, a river, and the Gulf Coast, Candice Marley Conner’s stories emerge from cypress knees, muddy water, and salty air. She is the kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookstore (but not haunted how you’re thinking) and an officer for the local writer’s guild. Her short stories and poems are in various anthologies and magazines including Smarty Pants Magazine for Kids, Highlights Hello, Cabinet of Curiosities, Babybug, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more. Her latest picture book, CHOMPSEY CHOMPS BOOKS released October 12th, 2021 and her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL, and her YA Southern mystery, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, both debuted this June. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children (one of whom is possibly feral, and definitely a velociraptor).
Candice is represented by Katelyn Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Management.
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