The Backstory: ADVENTURE GIRL: DABI DIGS IN ISRAEL
I am so grateful to have Janice Hechter join us today on The Backstory. She's here to share the story behind her author/illustrator debut, ADVENTURE GIRL: DABI DIGS IN ISRAEL. Keep reading to get the behind-the-scenes scoop and for your chance to win a copy of your own.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind ADVENTURE GIRL: DABI DIGS IN ISRAEL.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
The protagonist of this story, Dabi, enjoys exploring nature and her favorite activities are digging in the dirt, sculpting figures out of mud, and playing with worms. But her parents see things differently than Dabi. They would prefer for her to keep clean and act more ladylike. On a special family visit to Israel, Dabi’s aunt introduces her to a National Park where Dabi joins an archaeological dig and is actually encouraged to do what she loves most – dig in the dirt.
I love how this explores and breaks the expectations for young girls. And more importantly, I love how Dabi never second-guesses who she is or tries to change herself based on the opinions of others.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
I have always had an interest in archaeology and was attending a lot of archaeology lectures at a local college. I fondly remembered studying this topic as a young kid in school. When I did a search for picture books with archaeology as a theme, I discovered that there wasn’t much out there. So, I decided that I needed to write and illustrate a picture book with archaeology as a central theme.
How lucky that your natural interest aligned with a need in the market! You did a great job taking this archaeology theme and weaving it together with the additional message of acceptance.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now ADVENTURE GIRL? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
This was definitely the latter. The idea of writing a picture book about archaeology had been percolating in my mind for quite some time. Although I had this subject in mind, I kept coming up empty when I tried hard to think of ideas for a story arc. So, I just set it aside, but kept it in the back of my mind. Then one day I walked into my house and the idea for the story suddenly came to me. It just clicked and I knew I had my story.
That is the best when the path forward for an idea finally presents itself. Like you alluded to, it isn't something that can be rushed, but given the right amount of time, these ideas seem to work themselves out.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
It’s usually something I’ve read, heard, or experienced which sparks an idea for a story. Lately, I’ve been attending a lot of programs on Zoom. Sometimes, after learning about a particular subject, I’ll delve further into it on the internet and find out even more information, which leads to a story.
Those are all great places to discover inspiration!
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
The books that I have been writing since Adventure Girl have all been nonfiction, so that’s what I have been reading lately. I am really enjoying the lyrical language of Lesa Cline-Ransome.
I found Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to be quite valuable.
I have really learned a lot from all the webinars I’ve been viewing lately. Also, I have gained so much knowledge about writing by critiquing other people’s stories.
As far as books on illustration, I strongly recommend the following book:
Children's Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles
This book is invaluable for keeping the reader’s interest by adding drama and pace to one’s illustrations. I never get tired of reading it. Thank you for sharing these books with us. I am sure many readers will find them valuable. And I agree with you about the benefits of critiquing others' work.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
I used to use Corel Painter, along with a Wacom tablet and pen for illustrations. I now use Procreate on my iPad. I prefer being able to draw directly on the screen. I have come to realize that when I take notes for one of my nonfiction manuscripts that it is much more efficient if I do so in Word, rather than taking notes by hand. It makes it much easier to do a control F to find what I am looking for rather than spending hours scouring my hand-written notes to search for a particular word. For references, I had live models posing for each of the scenes in my illustrations. But since many of the scenes took place at dig sites in Israel, I had to search for photo references since I live quite a distance from Israel.
I love hearing more about your illustration process. As a non-illustrator, I find it fascinating and am in awe of the skill and talent of artists.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Join a critique group or work with individual critique partners. I learned so much from critique partners. Getting honest, to the point feedback is so helpful. Be prepared for constructive criticism. It’s a big part of the writing process. Also, keep reading and studying other people’s books to use as mentor texts for your writing. And stick to it!
Superb advice! Finding the right critique partners and learning how to be open to feedback are huge assets for aspiring writers. And mentor texts are such a useful tool to see what has worked in the market as well as what is missing. They help to identify what we do and do not like as an author and help inform our future projects.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I have a new illustrated nonfiction book, Next Year in the White House! The Journey to Barack Obama's First Presidential Seder, scheduled to be published by PJ Library in the winter of 2023. It is the story of how Eric Lesser, a young Jewish staffer, organized a Passover Seder while working on the 2008 presidential campaign for then Senator Barack Obama. As usual, I have many other manuscripts in the works.
Congratulations on your forthcoming book. It sounds fascinating and I wish you lots of success with it. I also hope your other manuscripts find the perfect homes.
Where can people connect more with you?
My website: http://www.janicehechter.com/
Readers be sure to connect with Janice through her social media accounts and don't forget to check out ADVENTURE GIRL: DABI DIGS IN ISRAEL (Alazar Press, 2021).
Janice thank you so much for joining us and giving us the inside scoop behind your wonderful book.
Janice is generously offering a copy of ADVENTURE GIRL: DABI DIGS IN ISRAEL to one lucky winner. (US only)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT JANICE HECHTER
Janice Hechter is both an author and illustrator whose debut picture book, Adventure Girl, has been published by Alazar Press. She is an award-winning illustrator and fine artist who has exhibited her paintings in various galleries and museums throughout the country. Janice has illustrated six picture books, including SCBWI Crystal Kite Award finalist, The Great Elephant Escape, for Pelican Publishing. In 2018, she was selected by jury to take part in an intensive week-long residency program for author/illustrators, sponsored by PJ Library. One of her illustrations was selected by jurors, Brian Lies and Susannah Richards, to be included in the 2018 SCBWI New England Illustrators Exhibit at the Wedeman Art Gallery of Lasell College. Janice enjoys the combination of her two favorite passions, which are writing and illustrating. She has been on numerous school visits, sharing her book making process with students. She is an active member of SCBWI, attending conferences and workshops. Her B.F.A. degree in illustration is from Carnegie Mellon University.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew’s background of being surrounded by children, both at work and at home, has been a treasure trove of inspiration.
A nature lover, Andrew can be found exploring the woods of Massachusetts with his wife and three kids.
While often witty and imaginative, Andrew’s stories can also delve into the more serious and emotional topics that children can experience.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.