Happy Monday! Welcome to the Kid Lit Love blog series where we spread a little love around our small and friendly writing community! Thanks for stopping by. Today, we feature illustrator, AJ Irving and her book, DANCE LIKE A LEAF which released from Barefoot Books on August 21, 2020.

★ “This evocative pairing of story and art creates a tone poem and lesson, a lovely reflection on the seasons of life, and a gentle lead-in to discussion of death and renewal.”—School Library Journal, starred review

DANCE LIKE A LEAF by AJ Irving and Claudia Navarro

BOOK BLURB: As her grandmother’s health declines, a young girl takes the lead in their cozy shared autumn traditions. Poetic prose paired with evocative illustrations by illustrator Claudia Navarro make for a beautiful celebration of life and a gentle introduction to the death of a loved one.

DANCE LIKE A LEAF is also available in Spanish as Baila como una hoja and in French as Danser comme une feuille.

AUTHOR BIO: AJ Irving grew up in Boise, Idaho, writing stories and daydreaming about becoming an author. Now, she writes picture books and poetry on her big back porch in a tiny town near Jackson, Wyoming. AJ reads kidlit every day and dances every chance she gets. Her debut picture book, DANCE LIKE A LEAF, releases from Barefoot Books on August 21, 2020. 

As an author and former bookmobile librarian, AJ is passionate about inspiring children to read. She received a B.A. in journalism and women’s and gender studies from the University of Oregon. AJ is represented by Jordan Hamessley of New Leaf Literary. 

Interview

It was a pleasure to connect with AJ and learn more about her book and the connection she feels to both her son and her gramma. I’ve always felt like picture books are a way to build relationships and foster connection between generations. AJ agreed to answer a few questions for us.

1.       Tell us how you came to write books for children.

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a novelist when I was a little girl, a sport’s writer in junior high school, an investigative journalist in high school, and a freelance feminist magazine writer in college. I found my true passion for writing after I became a mother. I rediscovered my love of children’s books by reading with my son. I’ve been writing picture books ever since. 

2.       Tell us about the inspiration for your book.

DANCE LIKE A LEAF traveled straight from my heart to my pen. This story is inspired by a letter I wrote my grandma when I learned her life was nearing the end. Autumn was her favourite season. She loved tea and scarves and dancing. We were very close. My fondest memories with her are of reading stories at bedtime and sharing our writing. We were pen pals for most of my life. She always wanted to be an author, and she inspired me to become one too. After she passed away from Alzheimer’s in October 2014, I turned my last letter to her into a picture book. I dedicated DANCE LIKE A LEAF to her. 

3.       Share a piece of advice or a resource for children’s writers.

Every manuscript is different. There is no formula for success. I wrote DANCE LIKE A LEAF in one sitting. My first draft didn’t change much from the final book. That’s definitely not the case with most of my work! I have a picture book on submission that I’ve revised 37 times. 

Expect to get a lot of nos. Expect to feel down at times. It’s normal to experience self-doubt. I like to hang up affirmations and accomplishments in my writing space to remind myself of how far I have come. I’ve had the same motto since I started my kidlit journey: dream big and never give up. A “yes” will come as long as you keep going. I’ve seen it countless times. I happy dance for my kidlit buddies every single time.

There are so many wonderful kidlit resources. The most helpful ones for me have been SCBWI, Kidlit 411, 12×12, Storyteller Academy, and Writing with the Stars. My Writing with the Stars mentorship with Laura Gehl has been life changing. Our mentorship was in 2017, but she continues to guide me with excellent advice, emotional support, and friendship. 

You will find AJ on Twitter or visit her website.

Order Dance Like a Leaf!

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/dance-like-a-leaf/9781646860579

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=dance+like+a+leaf

Barefoot Books: https://www.barefootbooks.com/dance-like-a-leaf

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