Ellen Leventhal is on my blog today! I had connected with Ellen on the KidLit forums and we became friends when we became Spork Sisters! I love her book Don't Eat the Bluebonnets and I really look forward to reading Lola Can't Leap, releasing in 2018 (also from Clear Fork Publishing). I'm delighted that she's here to answer my questions about stories, creativity, and connection. And I'm so excited to finally meet Ellen in person in September at the North Texas SCBWI Conference!
Take it away, Ellen:
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
I get inspiration and ideas from all over. Kids, discussions with adults, and other books all inspire me. Sometimes my ideas are sparked by observation and asking “What if?” However, I am not always wonderful about coming up with ideas. Well, let me rephrase that. I’m not wonderful with formulating full ideas. I’m pretty good about coming up with topics, but sometimes after that, I need to let things “marinate” before I start to draft a story.
As far as the process for my latest projects, I am a project juggler, so I have a few up in the air, and they are all different. I’m excited about my picture book, Lola Can't Leap, coming out in March, 2018. This one came to me while watching a TV commercial for a mattress. It featured jumping sheep. I wondered aloud if those sheep ever got tired or if there were some who couldn’t jump. The story line comes from my own clumsiness. I certainly would be the sheep who couldn't jump. I started this book several years ago and spent hours, days, weeks, and months revising, getting critiques, and revising again. I finally got the courage to submit, and now I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.
One fun thing about this book is that I am getting to work with Noelle Shawa who is an amazing artist. Her drawings have shown me more about the main character than I even knew!
I am currently working on tweaking a few more picture books, and I am very excited about a middle grade novel I am just beginning. It is a story about which I am passionate, so I love writing the first draft.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
Aside from writing for hopeful publication, I (like many of us, I am sure) have always been the one to write poems for birthdays, weddings, etc. When I was teaching full time, I wrote poems and songs to help illustrate a point. (I wrote a mean “Rock Cycle Rap” one year 😊 ). I am lucky that I get to teach creative writing during the school year as well as in the summer, and I get my creative juices flowing while working with young writers.
And of course, I’ve always tried to do creative things with my own children, and writing stories with my grandchildren now is one of my favorite things to do.
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 connection is so important. Connecting with my readers is what keeps me going. There is nothing I love more than sharing my books with school children. By having conversations, playing games, and reading and writing together, the kids hopefully leave school knowing that they are creative beings who have much to share with the world.
Staying connected to the kid lit community is key for me. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and meeting like-minded people helps keep me sane. I go to local SCBWI meetings, and I have met so many amazing people through different Facebook groups and classes. I am just now venturing into going to SCBWI conferences, and I am super excited about meeting some kid lit friends I’ve not met in person yet. (Including the lovely Melissa Stoller!)
Ellen Leventhal is a Houston based author and educator. She has been working with children in different capacities for over thirty-five years. Ellen has a BA in Elementary Education and an M.Ed. in Special Education. She has been a classroom teacher for elementary and middle school students and currently works part time with children in second through fifth grade. Ellen’s short stories and poems have appeared in anthologies (both children’s and adult’s), and she is the co-author of three picture books. Her first solo picture book debuts from Clear Fork Publishing in March of 2018. Currently, she is busy working on several other projects including a middle grade novel and a non-fiction picture book.
Ellen’s books can be found at: