Hello Lovely Readers! I’m glad you’re back here on Kid Lit Village blog and I hope you’re ready for another great interview. Today we have the creator of HELLO, MEADOW, Terry Pierce. She’s going to answer a few questions about this lovely book, illustrated by Nadja Sarell. The book is published by Yosemite Conservancy. Terry’s book is a great fit for me, as it promotes a connection to the natural world in a fun way. As an added bonus, we have a giveaway and you can enter to win a copy! Details at the end of the post.
Welcome to the blog, Terry! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Cynthia, thank you for inviting me to talk about our new board book with Yosemite Conservancy Publishing, Hello, Meadow! (illustrated by the talented Nadja Sarell). We’re SO excited to put this book out into the world to help empower little ones to enact real change in the world. I know, that might sound a bit lofty for the board book audience, but really, if a very young child can remind their parents or siblings to do something as simple as staying on a path as they’re hiking near a meadow, that’s progress in environmental education and a win for everyone!
What appeals to you about writing books for children?
When I first began writing, I would have said it was working in my fuzzy slippers ;), but after twenty-four years, I can’t distill it down to such a single simple pleasure (although I still work in slippers!). I think what appeals to me most about writing are two main things. First, having a creative outlet in which I can let my mind meander and ultimately land on an idea I’m excited to write—then execute the writing by playing and experimentation. I love trying different words and sentences, tasting their sounds on my tongue until I feel I’ve found a fun and engaging way to convey what I’m thinking. Second, I love knowing that I’m having a positive influence on children’s lives. When I taught Montessori pre-primary classes decades ago, I recognized how much influence I had on my individual students, so I did everything I could do to prepare them for life and school beyond their Montessori education. When I retired from teaching, I still wanted to help children and bring good things to their lives, which was one reason I chose to write.
Tell us about the inspiration for your books.
For me, inspiration comes from all places (my ceiling fan once inspired me to write a picture book!), but lately, I draw much inspiration from nature. My husband and I moved from the desert to the gorgeous eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2019, where I’m surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the world. I live in a place of wild animals, towering trees, and dynamic waterways, which always stir up story ideas in my head. I’m very fortunate!
With Hello, Meadow!, the idea actually came from the publishers at Yosemite Conservancy. We were tinkering with another story idea I’d had, when they asked me if I would be interested in writing a book with a similar structure as our first book, Eat Up, Bear!, but instead about meadow conservation. Of course, I said yes! I dove into researching meadows and even went to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park for a day hike. There, I was lucky enough to run into two rangers who were measuring water flow of the Tuolumne River. We had an interesting chat about meadow conservation. It was a “happy accidental research incident” for me.
What challenges you as a writer?
My last four books have been board books. I love the distilled writing that’s needed for younger audiences, but I’ll admit that it can be a challenge! Taking a more advanced concept, such as meadow conservation in Hello, Meadow!, took some thought (and lots of playing with text), to find the right wording that babies and toddlers would comprehend. We (my incredible editor, Nicole Geiger, and the Yosemite Conservancy team) wanted the text to be simple but clear enough so little ones could understand the message of protecting meadows. So, for example, while I wanted to say, “Meadows are fragile ecosystems, which are wildlife habitats, crucial water filters, places of peace and beauty, and help with climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere” what I did write was, “Meadows are such busy places. Grasses, creatures, open spaces. But meadows can get hurt, you see. Let’s do our part to let them be.”
Nadja Sarell’s illustrations beautifully contribute to the book’s overall message, and expands upon the words, for which I am grateful. For example, with the text I just mentioned, she illustrated people doing things that can harm meadows, showing that they’re busy yet fragile places. The artwork is also scientifically accurate, with a variety of humans and wildlife, such as a black bear, hunting coyote, red-shouldered hawk, red-winged blackbird, lupines, Jeffrey shooting stars, meadow paintbrush, and much more. The illustrations really do carry a lot of the story and draw in our readers’ attention!
List 5 favourite picture books. Explain what you like about them:
Yeeks, only five? ;). Let me start with a newer title, To Find Treasure in the Mountains by Francine Rockey. It’s a beautifully written invitation for children to get out and explore nature. It’s one of those books that upon reading, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I write a book like this?”
A classic story I treasured reading to my son when he was little was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. The simplicity of the text and soft yet colorful, inviting illustrations made this a joy to read.
As a Montessori teacher, I loved another Don and Audrey Wood title, Heckedy Peg. I really got into character when I’d read this to my students, which they loved and was a lot of fun. And, the illustrations are amazing.
I also love titles that evoke emotions and help children learn how to experience challenging feelings. One title that does this so well is the Caldecott Honor Book, The Rough Patch by Brian Lies. When Evan mourns the loss of his dog and “loses it” by destroying his garden, well…it took my breath away and sent chills down my spine. Any book that evokes that kind of physical response from me becomes a favorite.
And last, another book that evokes emotions is Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley. It’s another story about loss, but what I thought was particularly brilliant was that we never knew why Papa is gone. To me, this leaves an invitation to the reader to interpret the situation and make it their own. E.g, Papa could have passed away, or been alive but gone for another reason. For children with a deceased parent, a parent working overseas, or even in prison, this story can speak to them. I really love picture books that leave just enough room for interpretation so the reader can relate to it in their own way.
Can you recommend any resources for developing your talents as a writer?
Of course! I always recommend new writers join the SCBWI. It’s where I learned the basics of writing for children, and developed important relationships with fellow writers and once met a future editor. Another terrific resource, especially for developing skills, is the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. I’ve taught a variety of children’s writing courses for them, but most recently have focused on Writing Picture Books II, a deeper dive into picture book writing than their Writing Picture Book I course. They offer a variety of formats, including on-campus, online, and remote platforms. You can learn more at https://www.uclaextension.edu/writing-journalism. And for folks who like learning at their own, individualized pace, Ann Whitford Paul’s craft book, Writing Picture Books is a must-read.
Thank you, Terry! I hope this will be helpful for new writers learning the craft. There are many avenues to learn the art of writing picture books.
Just look at these gorgeous interior spreads. And Terry’s rhyme is spot on and easy to read!
And now for the giveaway! Enter to win a copy of this gorgeous book. Like and comment on the blog or on the Twitter post. For an extra entry, QT or RT on Twitter. Make sure you are following Terry! Links below.
You must be an adult and a resident of the USA to win – sorry Canadian people, I will do a giveaway that includes you – coming soon. Giveaway closes April 23 at midnight EST.
Here are Terry’s links –
And now a little more about me, the face behind the blog!
I am a children’s author too… with two self-published books and my debut picture book in traditional publishing, IF A BUMBLEBEE LANDS ON YOUR TOE, coming in 2024 with Yeehoo Press!
If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey (me), please subscribe to my newsletter.
I hope you’ll stop by again soon!
You must be logged in to post a comment.