3 Question Interview - MARY MUNSON
I'm excited to feature debut author Mary Munson on the blog today. Her upcoming picture book, LOVE WILL TURN YOU AROUND (illustrated by Kate Talbot, Gnome Road Publishing, April 2023) releases soon! I have to admit a special fondness for this wonderful book since I have also worked with illustrator Kate Talbot, and her artwork is absolutely brilliant! Mary chats about her inspiration (her teaching background and a writing contest played a big part!) and shares about stories, creativity, and connection. Welcome, Mary!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thank you for having me today. I am happy to share my thoughts with you and your followers about writing. I am a preschool teacher of more than twenty years, which means I have a slight hearing loss, limited attention span, can make a mean mud pie, and can change a diaper in under a minute. I feel so grateful to be in the fascinating company of three- and four-year-old children. Story ideas are everywhere, but figuring out which ones are story worthy is the tricky part.
Just recently, at group time, a little girl looked up at me with a straight face and said, “cupcakes in your face.” Stunned, I burst out laughing. Was I just cussed at by a four-year-old during group time? Do I answer with, “frosting in your hair!” Is that argumentative? Immature? Confrontational? I was at a loss. I’m not sure it’s story worthy, but I can certainly see “cupcakes in your face,” coming around again.
My debut picture book, LOVE WILL TURN YOU AROUND, developed from Susanna Hill’s Valentiny Writing Contest. I tried to write a love story, with Heart being the main character. I didn’t win the contest, but the image of Heart didn’t go away. It was one of those ‘latch on’ ideas that won’t let you sleep. I decided to try Heart as a picture book character. It worked. Of course, his friends had to be other shapes, and BAM, an early childhood math story emerged. I effortlessly wrote three more follow up books staring Heart, and his shape buddies. It felt natural, easy and really great, I knew I was on the right path.
Now, once an idea ‘latches on,’ I figure out ways to incorporate early childhood math and science concepts. I like to pack a lot into a book and I value early social emotional development, so I make sure there is a meaningful take-away with each book. Every teacher knows that the right book can be used in a multitude of ways and I want mine to stand the test of time in early childhood classrooms across generations.
(The shape friends in the gorgeous bridge scene illustrated by Kate Talbot!)
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
Creativity is what I am most thankful for. A couple years back, I reread The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I began to take more “artist’s walks” just to let my mind go where it needed to go. I have always been observant, but this step really allowed my imagination the freedom to explore. I firmly believe as William Faulkner said, “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” I do try to get all three as much as possible… “cupcakes in your face!” (See how it already came around again?)
A dear friend introduced me to Mike Dooley and his “thoughts become things,” philosophy. I now surround myself with the ‘things of my thoughts.’ It’s like a 3-D vision board on my desk. I have: a gnome (for my awesome publisher Gnome Road Publishing), an old lady statue and an ice cream truck (for my future Granny series), my 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge button (reminding me I have a great community of authors and illustrators for support), a CREATE BRAVELY poster (from Peter Reynolds to make me take risks) and a picture of Janis Joplin reminding me to create from my soul and enjoy the journey.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
For connection, I have a few trusted critique partners. I love the Twitter writing community and the 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge has made me lots of author/illustrator connections, like you Melissa Stoller 😊!
I made a resolution a few years ago to attend as many writing conferences and retreats as money would allow. Whispering Pines Writing Retreat in Massachusetts is my favorite, they bring together an amazing group of creatives, feed them amazing meals, make them play silly games and foster solid authentic connections. Finding the KidLit community was life changing for me, it catapulted me into the writer’s life I dreamed of being in.
Mary Munson is a special education preschool teacher spanning two decades. She teaches at an integrated magnet school serving children from two to five years of age. Mary has always developed creative curricula to teach math and science to young children and now brings that expertise to children’s picture books. Being mindful of children’s social-emotional development, Mary combines themes of love and kindness with basic early childhood skills. Mary also serves as the Nutritional Science Liaison at her school, teaching young children about the importance of healthy foods and gardening. When she is not writing or teaching, she “twinkles” in the mountains with her family, and takes long walks with her husband Brent and wolfhound, Zoshia.
CONNECT WITH MARY: