Last month, I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Aaron Reynolds at the North Texas Regional SCBWI Conference (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). His humor, authenticity, and straight-forward talk captivated his audience. I am still processing all he taught us that weekend. One tip he gave us writers is that we need to write, write, and write. He said one of the errors writers seeking publication make is doing “writerly” things instead of investing time and focus on actually working on their craft. Seems basic, but he’s right. Lately, I’ve spent less time talking about my ideas and writing on social media and more time on writing my original works. He also inspired me to persevere as his writing journey has been a long process. I’m learning to appreciate the process and see where it takes me! Thank you Aaron for all you taught us.
Now it’s your chance to meet Aaron Reynolds and see why he is such a coveted guest speaker in local schools and conferences. Enjoy his relatable personality, authentic insights and valuable experiences.
What experiences, people, and/or books were influential in your life, leading you to write your own children’s books?
I would not be a writer if it weren’t for a teacher who read aloud to us in class. As a kid, I hated books. I was never read to aloud, that I remember, at all. I had never been to a library. That all changed in fifth grade, because I had a very special teacher named Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter LOVED books and he read a chapter out of a chapter book to us every day of fifth grade. I still remember the first week of fifth grade and I still remember the first book Mr. Hunter read aloud to us. It was RAMONA THE PEST. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…that THIS was books, that THIS is what I had been missing out on all this time. I was mesmerized by the story. I immediately went from being a kid who hated books to being a kid who was obsessed with books. I went to the library for the first time and read EVERYTHING. Mr. Hunter did so much more than teach us that year. He INSPIRED me to LOVE BOOKS. And I truly believe that it is because of Mr. Hunter that I transformed from a kid who hated books to an adult who creates books for a living.
When did you begin writing children’s book manuscripts?
Probably around 1998. I was 28 years old, was working full-time writing scripts and plays and sometimes curriculum for kids. I loved kids books and decided I would try to write one. My first efforts were terrible…I made all the classic first-timer blunders and the rejection letters gushed forth!
What was the first book you got published and with which publishing agency?
My first published book was CHICKS AND SALSA, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in 2004.
How many books have you written that are published?
Which of your books is your favorite and why?
While CREEPY CARROTS is my most popular book, I’m very partial to CARNIVORES. It has a dark and unexpected turn that delights me and makes me laugh every time. I love to watch the faces of kids as they read it. You can always tell when they get to the page with the owl.
What was the inspiration for your main character of your favorite book?
In CARNIVORES…not sure. I guess me. It’s about three meat-eaters who get a bad rap for just being themselves. I’ve felt like that sometimes. I’ve had bosses, even in creative fields, who have said to me “You just need to think smaller. You just need to reign it in. You’re too big with your creativity.” Thankfully, I feel like I’ve had a clear idea of who I am and what I’m in a job to do, and I was able to say “If you want somebody who thinks small, you should fire me, because that’s not who you’ve hired.” But I’ve never understood that kind of thinking…think small. So I relate to the Lion and Wolf and Shark who are just trying to be who they were made to be, and sometimes get slack for it.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I honestly have no idea. I think we are surrounded by ideas. They fill the air like butterflies…they are all around us, just waiting to be snatched up by anyone with eyes to see.
How long did it take you to write, edit, and publish your first book?
I wrote CHICKS AND SALSA over the course of a few weeks. But then I sent it out to publishers and received rejections for a couple years. When I heard back from Bloomsbury, it was 9 months after I sent it to them, and they rejected it. They felt like it wasn’t finished, but they liked it and gave me a bunch of suggestions for revision. I revised within two weeks and sent it right back. It was another 12 months before I got a call that it had been accepted. We didn’t do much revision after that, and about a year later, the book was on shelves.
What’s that add up to? A long time, that’s what.
What advice can you share with children reading your books?
Read like crazy. And read things you LOVE. Reading is meant to be fun. Us grownups have a terrible habit of judging what you read…of telling you to put that book that you love down and go pick up a book WE think is worth your time. That’s nonsense. If you love sports magazines, read them by the boatload. If you love graphic novels, read every one you can get your hands on.
And never, NEVER watch a movie of a book before you read the book. That’s just a sad sad thing.
What advice can you give to those of us who are working to write and publish children’s books?
As long as you still love the process of writing, don’t give up. Keep learning, keep growing, keep getting better. It took me five years of rejections to get published. But through it all, I fell MORE in love with the writing, MORE in love with the world of children’s publishing, and I could see myself getting better.
What are three hobbies/interests you have besides writing?
- Video games
Please leave us with a quote from one of your books!
I’m not bad. I’m a CARNIVORE. Eating meat is just what I do.
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