Welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! I’m so excited to welcome Artemis Roehrig to the blog. Not only is she an incredible author, she’s also a scientist who researches invasive insects at the Elkinton Lab in Massachusetts. I first met Artemis at the NESCBWI Spring Conference. Her latest picture book, Do Doodle Bugs Doodle? (Persnickety Press), was just released on March 27, 2018. Do Doodlebugs Doodle? was cowritten by Artemis and her mother, Corrine Demas, and was illustrated by Ellen Shi.
First off, what kind of coffee (or tea) do you like to drink?
I secretly hate coffee, however, I sporadically may be found drinking chocolate mint green tea.
A writer who hates coffee? Ha ha! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.
Despite always loving writing, I grew up with a mother who is a writer, so I defiantly became a biology major in college. This, of course, ended up with me falling in love with the sciences too, and despite my mother hinting I should apply to a MFA program I ended up going on to study science in graduate school as well. I always wrote some on the side, and, in fact, the first draft of my book Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle? came about when I was working as an environmental educator during my summer break from college and was always looking for more books to read to kids that were factual but also fun to read out loud. Writing a scientific article is very similar to writing a picture book. In both cases you take a complicated concept and years of research and boil it down into as few words as possible that still gets the point across.
Writing picture books seems like the perfect way to combine your two passions. Tell me about your newest book, Do Doodlebugs Doodle?
Like, Does A Fiddler Crab Fiddle?, Do Doodlebugs Doodle? Amazing Insect Facts is all about getting kids excited about science. Insects are such an accessible science topic, since you can find them whether you live on a farm or in an apartment building. And there are so many cool insects that kids might not even know about. I also wanted to write a book that would be of interest to multiple age groups. A toddler can have fun yelling “NO!” along with the book, while a much older child or teacher can find out lots of interesting facts, and read the extensive authors’ note in the back to get a more detailed overview of the insects that appear in the book. My hope is that as well as appealing to insect fans, it will also get kids who don’t naturally gravitate towards nonfiction to become more interested in STEM topics!
What is it like writing books with your mother?
Working in the sciences means that collaborating with others is just second nature for me. Two heads are definitely better than one. And, although you may write a book draft alone, no book is published without input from editors and the production team. It’s especially great working with someone who has a different background from me, because we are able to bring different things to the manuscript and create something even better, and sometimes more quickly. For a rhyming book like Are Pirates Polite? it was helpful working as a team because we could read out loud and listen to what worked best rhythmically. I think the two of us work really well together since we know each other so well. However, we probably bicker a little more than other writing teams!
Ha ha! What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?
The most exciting part was signing the contract. The hardest part was the wait between signing the contract and actually holding the finished book.
What else are you working on?
I have two books due out next year, both coauthored with Corinne Demas (my mom). Do Jellyfish Like Jelly? Amazing Sea Creature Facts will be published by Persnickety Press, and we have another rhyming pirate book called The Grumpy Pirate with Scholastic which is being illustrated by Ashlyn Anstee. I have several other picture book manuscripts out on submission. In my spare time I am working on my first YA novel, which I hope to have submission-ready by the end of this year—we’ll see how that goes!
Wow, you are on fire! What is your favorite part of being a published author?
It’s allowed me to meet a lot of new people! It’s been especially fun connecting with other writers like you, Jenna!
What’s one picture book you loved when you were little and a more recent one you love now?
My favorite picture book as a kid was The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont. I have two kids so I read a ton of picture books these days, so it is difficult for me to choose a favorite! The NEWEST book I love is A Bear Sat On My Porch Today by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rilla Alexander, which I was lucky enough to bring my kids to a reading of with both the author and illustrator!
That must have been an amazing event. Right now, I’m reading a great YA, Assassin of Truths, by Brenda Drake. What are you currently reading?
I’m in a combination dance class/book club and we are reading the short story collection Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Besides that, I’m usually in the middle of several books at once, so I’m currently reading the YA novel What Girls Are Made Of (Elana Arnold), and just started The Gypsy Moth Summer (Julia Fierro). I left Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly) in my car at the beginning of the year to read when I am early to preschool pickup, but it turns out I’m always late, so although the book is wonderful, it is taking me forever to finish!
I’ve never heard of a combination dance class/book club, but it sounds like a lot of fun. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I have four pet tarantulas.
Thank you so much for joining me and taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions!
To learn more about Artemis, visit her website at https://artemisroehrig.com
Or, connect with her on Twitter @ArtemisRoehrig
Now it’s giveaway time!
You have the chance to win a copy of Artemis’s book, Do Doodlebugs Doodle? To enter this giveaway, simply comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Monday, April 9th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. Good luck!