Welcome to KidLit Coffee Talk! Today, I’m thrilled to feature my friend and fellow author Ellen Leventhal. I first met Ellen in 2016 at a writing retreat. Since then, she has published two fantastic picture books. Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets (Clear Fork Publishing), co-written by Ellen Rothberg and illustrated by Joel Cook, came out in 2017. Lola Can’t Leap (Clear Fork Publishing), illustrated by Noelle Shawa, is her latest release.
Thank you for joining me, Ellen. First off, what kind of coffee (or tea) do you like to drink?
Well if I don’t care about calories or sugar, I love the vanilla flavored coffees, but when I’m being good, I just do boring decaf. It’s probably a good thing because you don’t want to see me on caffeine!
Ha ha! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
I have had a LONG writing journey. I always loved writing, and like many other writers, I’m sure, I am the one who writes all the poems for birthdays, showers, etc. When I was a teenager, I wrote angst filled poetry while sighing deeply. But as I got older, I learned that all writing doesn’t need to be soul crushing. I taught school for a very long time, and I often rewrote the curriculum to make it more interesting. While I was busy tweaking the curriculum, a friend and I also wrote the dialogue for the school musical every year. One day that same friend and I decided that we should try our hand at writing a kids’ book. We entered a contest and won a picture book deal! That was several years ago, and I’ve been writing “professionally” ever since.
How wonderful that you got started on this journey with a friend! Tell me about Lola Can’t Leap.
I have to admit that I love this little book. My amazing illustrator, Noelle Shawa, brought Lola to life so beautifully. The story is about a lamb who feels like she needs to leap fences like all the other lambs. After all, leaping sheep help babies sleep. But try as she does, she just can’t get over that fence. Happily, Lola finds her own gift and learns that there is more than one way to reach a goal.
Noelle did an amazing job with the illustrations. And I love the language you used. What was the most exciting part of the publication process? What was the hardest?
Aside from the rush of signing a contract, one of the most exciting parts for me is seeing the illustrations and marveling at how well the words and pictures mesh. The most difficult part for me is marketing the books. I could talk about books and writing in general forever, but I find it difficult to go out and say, “Please buy my book.” So, I REALLY thank you, Jenna, for helping me do this.
Of course! And I understand how you feel. It’s so much easier to gush about other people’s books than it is your own. What else are you working on?
I’m juggling several projects right now. I am finishing up revisions on a few picture books, I’m in the process of interviewing people for a biography picture book I hope will come to fruition, and I’m doing research for a middle grade historical fiction novel.
Wow, it sounds like you are busy! What is your favorite part of being a published author?
I absolutely love going into schools and talking about reading and writing. My presentations are usually pretty humorous and listening to the kids laugh is a great joy. And of course, finding out that I helped inspire a young writer is an incredible feeling. Oh, and I like that I can work in my pajamas. 😊
Reading and talking writing with kids is the best. What’s one picture book you loved when you were little, and a more recent one you love now?
This has to be a trick question! ONE?? Ok, I’ll give it a try. When I think of picture books when I was little, Caps for Sale always comes to mind. I remember laughing and acting like the monkeys in the book. You don’t hear about this book much anymore, but I watched a Youtube video of it, and I think it stands the test of time. As far as recent picture books, it depends on the day. I love SO many. The easiest way for me to answer this question is to think about what recently made my grandchildren smile. I read There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Klosterman to my grandson the other night, and I still picture him giggling and yelling out “That’s not polite” (a recurring line). That’s definitely one of my favorites, but honestly, there are so many.
Great choices! What are you currently reading?
I just started Educated by Tara Westover. It is a gripping memoir that I don’t want to put down. It’s about a girl who, kept out of school, eventually leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.
I haven’t read that one yet, but I’ve heard so many positive reviews. Now, let’s have a little fun. What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Hmm…not so sure that I’m that interesting. One funny thing is that although I consider myself a feminist, I entered and won a beauty contest. The thing is I was three years old. I clearly remember walking across a picnic table and being crowned Ms. Cadwalader School. I got a piece of candy AND a piece of gum for my prize. That was my claim to fame in my nursery school class.
Ha, that is a great story! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m so excited for the release of Lola, and I hope she finds her way into the hands of countless children.
To learn more about Ellen, visit her website at http://www.ellenleventhal.com.
Connect with her on social media
Twitter – @EllenLWrites
Facebook – Ellen Leventhal Writer
Instagram – @ellenl411
Now, it’s GIVEAWAY TIME!
Ellen has generously offered to give one lucky reader a picture book manuscript critique!
To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, February 13th. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. Good luck!