One of my favorite things about running The Picture Book Club has been the people it has led me to. Some are old friends who have offered new mentorship and support, some are fellow book people or entrepreneurs whom I've met through my work, and others are visionaries who inspire me from afar. I'm thrilled to introduce a few of them here.
-YiLing Chen-Josephson, Founder, The Picture Book Club
Q: What do you do?
I’m a children’s book blogger and writer. My blog is This Picture Book Life. My debut novel for young readers is called Zinnia and the Bees and will be published in the fall of 2017 by Capstone. (Yay!!) And I also help other kidlit writers with their manuscripts by offering critique services.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about doing what you do?
Process. The process of creating something is mysterious and hands down pretty great. I love having a story question and then going on a walk to think about it, recording brainstorms as voice memos. With process, you trust that if you wait and think and scribble and wait some more, the answers will emerge. And my very best moments are sitting down writing when in the flow of things. Process can be really fun.
Q: What's something you find challenging about what you do?
Also process! The process of writing can be challenging in that you don’t know how long it will take or what the outcome will be. My debut book is a manuscript I worked on for eight years in many different forms. I’ve also thrown a lot of projects away. Sometimes, you don’t know when or how or if you’ll come up with story solutions. It’s like shuffling around in the dark and you just want it to be morning already. Process can be really tough.
Q: What is something you’re proud of?
I’m proud of my persistence.
Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you know personally?
I don’t know her anymore, but I did know my English teacher my senior year of high school. She wore oversized red glasses. And she inspired me to study literature. She made me feel seen and encouraged and like maybe I had some potential. And she was inspiring in other ways too: she was sort of a nonconformist and she found a profession that she loved while helping others. I will forever be grateful to her and I’m confident I’m not the only student she inspired in her career, not by a long shot.
Q: Who is someone who inspires you that you've never met?
The writer Aimee Bender was an early and big influence on me. I love the way her stories combine magical realism with everyday life. She is super smart and has an outrageous imagination. Her work is remarkably intelligent but still accessible. What’s funny is that my favorite picture book writer could easily be described the same way. Shaun Tan, too, is outrageously imaginative and combines magic and strangeness with the real world. They’re both huge inspirations to me and my work.
Q: What’s a picture book you remember as a favorite from your childhood?
This is an easy one! Benjamin Dilley’s Thirsty Camel by Jolly Roger Bradfield. Benjamin Dilley taught me that imagination is important and can (if you trust it to be powerful), bring about change in the world. Your imagination is your companion. And it might even create something that entertains, that helps, that drinks up a flood in the basement perhaps (a la that camel from the title)!
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Danielle says, "I love the work Reading to Kids does and have volunteered several Saturday mornings to experience the magic of reading and crafting with kids myself. Plus, each child who attends a reading club receives a book to take home. Hooray!"