Dear Readers. Kids whose parents live in different homes experience unique challenges. Today's Birth Stories for Books interview is with author Candy Wellins, whose latest picture book, MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES (illustrated by Jess Rose, Beaming Books, October 2022) tackles this topic in a very kid-friendly way.
|by Candy Wellins and Jess Rose|
Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Candy. I’m looking forward to learning more about the path to publication for your latest book, MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES.
Candy Wellins: Thank you for having me!
DP: In other interviews you’ve shared the inspiration for your earlier books. I’d love to hear the inspiration that sparked the idea for this latest book, as well as the process and timeframe between your initial idea for this book and the story that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor.
CW: My parents divorced when I was very young, and I grew up in two homes so the idea came to me very early! I don’t remember what exactly sparked Mabel’s specific story, but I do recall starting with the line, “This is Mabel’s house…and this is also Mabel’s house.” It was fun coming up with contrasting experiences at her two different houses—something I was very familiar with.
I started writing the story in 2016. It’s gone through many revisions, and we sold it to Beaming Books in early 2021.
|Interior Image of MABEL'S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES|
by Candy Wellins and Jess Rose
DP: “This is Mabel’s house…and this is also Mabel’s house” is a great opening line. It immediately drew me into the story and into Mabel's home life.
When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?
CW: One of the biggest changes revisions brought was the addition of Izzy, Mabel’s class pet. Previous versions of the story just had Mabel comparing two different days at her two different houses. My wise critique partners noted that I needed more conflict. I played around with a few different scenarios, but nothing was working. At the time my son was in kindergarten and had a class pet (a stuffed animal thankfully) that spent weekends with different students. The variety of fun weekends inspired me to add Izzy to the story.
DP: That's such a great example of how critique partners can help us see opportunities for improving our stories.
Reflecting on the journey from idea to published book, is there any one moment along the way that you credit with opening the door for this particular story to find its way to publication?
CW: I don’t know if there was one particular moment, but I’d say that anytime you write honestly about authentic experiences it resonates with readers and that often leads to publication.
DP: When you compare your path to publication for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES to your experience with your earlier books (SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA and THE STARS BECKONED), what are some of the key similarities and differences in terms of the publication journeys for each and/or the similarities and differences between the three different editors/publishers that you’ve worked with?
CW: Book publishing is a bit like parenthood. Every book/child is a totally different experience, but so far everything has been positive for me. There was a time when I would have been worried about publishing with a smaller house. I was worried that I wouldn’t get the same exposure as I might with a bigger name, but I’ve found that hasn’t been the case at all. Write something worthwhile and it will get its due notice.
DP: I really appreciate that perspective, Candy. That's been my experience as well.
One of my favorite parts of being an author is connecting with young readers at school, library, and bookstore visits, and I’m always looking for new pro tips. Given your experience as both a former teacher and a children’s book author, what professional advice or suggestions do you have for fellow author/presenters in terms of planning successful (in-person and/or remote) book events?
CW: I create educator guides that go along with each of my books. I realize not every school can afford author visits and even when you visit a classroom, it’s never long enough to cover everything you’d like. Educator guides allow teachers to go more depth with your book (or topic) with lessons that fit their specific students.
DP: That's an excellent tip, Candy. I have educators' guides for each of my books as well, and I always encourage teachers, librarians, and parents to check out the book resources on author, illustrator, and publisher websites, because so many provide fantastic learning extensions for their books.
You are a member of the Soaring 20’s Debut Group. Your group appears to still be quite active well beyond your initial debut cycle. How did you come to be a member of this group? and What advice to you have for others who want to create/be a part an effective book promotion group?
CW: When I first sold SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, I reached out to Cate Berry for advice and the first thing she told me to do was join a debut group. I was lucky to connect with the Soaring 20s.
I highly recommend a support group (they aren’t just for debut authors anymore). Not only is great for promotional support (read and reviews, social media shares, blog tours), but it’s great for every day support (advice, encouragement and big virtual hugs when you need them).
If you’re in a debut group, I’d say play to your strengths. Do you have a favorite social media platform? Can you manage a second account for the group? If technology isn’t your thing, maybe you can help set up blog or podcast visits. Less extroverted types might be able to manage member books and share them amongst members to read and review.
DP: This is really helpful info, Candy. Thank you so much.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?
CW: I always wanted to be an author, but I felt like it was a bit of an impossible dream. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue it earlier than I did.
DP: Is there something you wish someone would ask you about your path to publication for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES, that you haven’t had the opportunity to share yet?
CW: No one has asked about the names of all the kids in Mabel’s class. My three kiddos are hidden in there as well as a few of their friends plus some random names that just felt right.
DP: Love it!
Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on?
CW: I just got back the first final art spread for my next book, A GEODUCK IS NOT A DUCK. It’s a picture book graphic novel mystery about the world’s largest species of burrowing clams. It’s going to be so much fun and I can’t wait to share it with the world in early 2024.
DP: What a great title and concept. I can't wait to read it!
Thanks so much for sharing your Birth Story for MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES with us, Candy.
Readers, you've heard me say it before: The best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. Candy's books, including MABEL’S TOPSY-TURVY HOMES are available everywhere books are sold—but you know I'm partial to supporting your local, independent bookstore.
Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.