Ask the Expert: The Makings of a Picture Book with Lindsay Barry

Ask the Expert  had the chance to talk with  Journey to Constellation Station author Lindsay Barry about  her first picture book.

Your picture book, Journey to Constellation Station, published by Thumbkin Prints is your first children’s book. It’s a beautiful book inspired by that special time in every child’s day–bedtime. What attracted you to this genre?

Honestly, my desire to get my kids to settle down for bed! For some reason, and I’ve heard that this is true for other parents too, my kids get really wound up right before bed. My husband and I can usually lure them into calming down by talking about what books we’ll be reading with them.

I also knew that I wanted to write a children’s book after I became a mom. Reading with my kids is so special to me, and I am beyond excited that I can now share my own book with them, and that my friends’ kids can also share it with their parents!

 You’re a self-described “Mom-trepreneur” with two sons, cats, fish, loads of creative projects and more! Each writer has a unique way of making time to write and finding the energy to it. How do you stay energized to write?

Lots of coffee! And while I do wear many hats and multi-task all day, I always keep my eyes, ears and mind open to new ideas. Whether it’s an interaction I notice between my kids, other kids out in public, or a silly rhyme my sons come up with, I am always thinking about how it could become a story. So I guess it’s really being open to inspiration, and writing it down quickly when an idea forms before I forget it in the mayhem and hustle of everyday life! It’s also the excitement of what a new idea could bring – the words, the images they would inspire an illustrator, and the conversations about the work. To me, that is all energizing and keeps me going.

Picture books, by their nature, have a visual component that can last a lifetime in the reader’s mind and bring up fond memories of the story. How did you come to collaborate with Journey to Constellation Station illustrator Jamin Hoyle? And, what tips do you have for authors on how to make the decision to choose one illustrator over another?

Jamin and I worked for the same company in the advertising industry, although we never worked on the same projects. When I was looking for an illustrator, I reached out to my former creative director, and he suggested that I contact Jamin.

Regarding who to work with, obviously it’s important to look at their work and style to see if there’s a fit with what you envision for the book. But maybe even more important, is that there’s a good rapport with each other. Jamin and I make each other laugh and were on the same page (no pun intended) about how we envisioned the book. From the first meeting I had with him, Jamin’s illustrations completely brought my words to life. There were a few times where I suggested an edit, and he was very open to my ideas. He also pushed back (in his nicest way possible!) when he didn’t agree, and explained his reasons. All this is to say, you have to pick someone who you are going to work collaboratively with. This book was two years in the making, and Jamin was a part of it for almost all of that time!

Research points to the importance of reading to youngsters wherever possible…story time at the library, in the classroom, or with parents and caregivers. What is one piece of advice you’d give to caregivers who want to read to their kids but never seem to find the time, and why?

You have to make the time – it’s so important! Kids learn so much from books, and reading helps open up their world. Their vocabulary and comprehension skills develop by being read to, and their curiosity grows as well. I know it’s really hard to carve out time, but even if you just start small by reading one book a day, and then go from there, it will be worth it.

Also, if your library has a reservation system where you can reserve your books ahead of time, you can get the books you want for your kids (or yourself!) quickly, and then let them pick out anything they want. Even if they get some books that you’d never pick out for them, it’s a great way to learn what’s out there, and they will get excited about going to the library and picking out their own books!

Writing and communications have featured prominently in your life since a young age. What was it like to have a mom who was an English teacher, a drama teacher and a creative writing teacher?

Watching my mom juggle so many things at once, I learned how to multitask from a master. I think that’s why now in my life, wearing so many hats, I am still able to write and pursue activities outside of the “mom life.” Obviously my mom is very creative, and she never let anyone tell her No, you can’t do that. It wasn’t an option for her, and I remind myself that I can push beyond what I think I’m capable of, and go for it.

For Journey to Constellation Station, I made the time to write (during naps) and I made the time to search for an illustrator, I made the time to find a publisher, create buzz, build a website, etc. I also know when to ask for help, and thankfully I have a large network of friends and a support system that have allowed me to pursue my writing. My mom had friends and family as well, helping her cart my sister and me around, providing us with dinners, and filling up our weekends when she was at the high school grading papers or working on sets.

What is one thing that would tell/has told you you’ve “made it” as an author?

I’ll never forget reading the book to my son for the first time. That to me was it – holding the book in my hands and seeing his huge smile and hearing him ask me questions about the book that I wrote. That was definitely a moment I’ll never forget!

Lindsay C. Barry grew up in the only town in Pennsylvania. She developed her love of reading and writing at a young age, and even more so when she stumbled upon a magical world called Narnia. With her mother as her high school English teacher, and drama teacher…and creative writing teacher, writing was ingrained in Lindsay’s upbringing. Graduating from The Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Communications, Lindsay started her career in the advertising world where she helped manage accounts.  During her time living in Washington, D.C., Lindsay met her future husband and three years later they welcomed their first son. Two years and two days later, they welcomed their second son (and decided two boys made their family complete). Now with  her boys, two cats, two guppies with ever-changing names and one red Beta fish named Goldie, Lindsay considers herself a Mom-Trepreneur and expert good night story reader. She still loves visiting her hometown of Bloomsburg, especially during Fair season where she can be found in line for a potato pancake at the green stand. It’s a Bloomsburg thing. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @lbarrybooks

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