3 Question Interview - Viviane Elbee
I'm so glad that my friend, author Viviane Elbee, stopped by the blog today! I first met Viviane through a writers' debut group in 2018 when her debut picture book, TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, released. You can read my first interview with her here. Viviane's wonderful new picture book, I WANT MY BOOK BACK (illustrated by Nicole Miles), just released from Little Bee Books. Viviane discusses the inspiration behind her book set in a library (and there are dinosaurs too!), and chats about stories, creativity, and connection. Welcome back, Viviane!
STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
Thank you, Melissa, for inviting me to be on your blog. I’m so happy to be here.
Like many authors, I get inspiration all around me. Some of my story ideas come from observing kids, taking walks or doing sports outside, doing crafts, reading and dreaming.
I was inspired to write I Want My Book Back after reading a review about another picture book set in a library. The reviewer, a librarian, mentioned wishing she could see a picture book about libraries that did not involve magic because libraries are already wonderful places. I started brainstorming a list of all the things I love about libraries, and sharing books with others was on that list. From there, I started imagining a little boy who loves his library book so much that he doesn’t want to return it to share with other kids.
It took a lot of revision to really get to know this character, what kind of library book he was in love with, and figuring out the story arc. I tried observing kids around me for inspiration when I felt stuck!
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
Thinking of stories and trying to figure out plots, settings and characters requires a lot of creativity, but I’ve noticed that my mind often feels more creative while doing other activities. Other activities can inspire new stories, or they can help me think of the solution to a story problem.
One of my creative outlets besides writing is crafting. I’ve made blankets and furniture, and purses and pillows. Very recently, the author Kjersten Hayes posted pictures in Instagram of handmade notebooks and journals with colorful and patterned sheets of paper inside. Since I write my rough drafts by hand, I was instantly interested. I looked up YouTube videos about Coptic book-binding and making your own book cloth. Making my own notebook brought me a lot of joy – but also, while I was happily cutting colorful and patterned paper for the notebook, some fully formed poems appeared in my head!
I love how doing other activities can energize my creativity and inspire me to write something new.
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
When writing my stories, I think about young people that I know and I channel some of their interests into my stories. Right now, my little nephew loves everything with dinosaurs and my latest character in I WANT MY BOOK BACK also loves everything with dinosaurs.
During the pandemic, it was tough to see a lot of children besides my own kids and my nearby niece and nephew, but now that things are slowly opening back up, I’m trying to visit more schools and pre-schools. I love the energy and curiosity that young children have and I want to craft stories they’ll find appealing.
I also learned a lot about writing appealing stories through my connections with the Kidlit community. Years ago, I joined a critique group and SCBWI, and then Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 organization. Through these organizations I was able to go to classes, conferences and webinars that taught me so much about writing and the industry. As for my critique partners, they are now my friends. They’re incredibly supportive, and smart, and creative! I meet up virtually with a few of them every week to write, discuss writing, and swap critiques. (Sometimes we talk about our kids and our everyday lives too.) A few of my critique partners live nearby, and I am hoping we can meet up in-person again soon.
Viviane Elbee is a children’s book author. She has written I WANT MY BOOK BACK (illustrated by Nicole Miles, published by Little Bee Books) and TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI (illustrated by Danni Gowdy, published by Albert Whitman). Her work has also appeared in Highlights High Five magazine. Viviane lives in the Carolinas with her husband and two book-devouring kids.
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