The Backstory: It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship
Our guest today, Lisa Katzenberger, is here to share the inspiration behind her latest story, IT WILL BE OK: A STORY OF EMPATHY, KINDNESS, AND FRIENDSHIP, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett and out now from Sourcebooks Kids. Lisa is also the author of TRICERATOPS WOULD NOT MAKE A GOOD NINJA and NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind your latest book.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship, is about an anxious, overwhelmed giraffe and his loyal zebra friend, whose patience and presence help him face his greatest fear head-on.
What a great theme for a story. Anxiety and empathy are such important topics for children and I love your approach to them.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
The inspiration for this story came from this picture on Twitter, with a challenge to write a story about it in 140 characters. When I saw the picture (that’s not real, totally photoshopped), I wondered what would make a giraffe climb a tree. I thought that it saw a spider, and my story was born.
I love contests for this exact reason. They push you places you may not have gone on your own and can be a great source of inspiration.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now IT WILL BE OK. 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?
The first draft, which I wrote in January 2017, had the essence of the story as it stands today. Giraffe is afraid of something small and he shares his feelings as his friend Zebra tries to encourage him to come down. I had a first draft within a couple days of seeing the picture. But then the hard work came—revising—and I had to deepen the heart of the story. I also really struggled with the resolution and tried a few different endings. Then I let it sit for about a year before I made final tweaks and sent it out on submission.
Yes to revising! There is such a pay off to seeing that initial idea shine and become its best self. I am also amazed that you were able to let it sit for a year.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
Oh gosh, all over the place. Today I had an idea based on something my son said when we were walking to school. Sometimes I pull from my own life--what I’m feeling (anxious), where I’ve traveled (swamp), jobs I’ve had (social media manager). Storystorm is a great resource as well!
Storystorm is great! It's like boot camp for idea generation. It really helps you be aware of the number of ideas that cross your mind each day.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
I love everything by Tammi Sauer, especially Wordy Birdy. It’s the perfect mix of character, plot, humor, and heart. I was also inspired by Chris Haughton’s use of sparse text when I was writing IT WILL BE OK. And I like to study quieter picture books like The Specific Ocean, The Rabbit Listened, When Sadness is At Your Door.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
Honestly, I just need my laptop. I don’t need quiet -- I have learned to write while my kids are running around the house playing or blaring the TV. I used to write at my dining room table, but I’ve taken to sitting on the couch--it’s nice and comfy!
I am jealous! That is a coveted skill to be able to work anywhere, regardless of noise.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Then write, write, write some more. Your craft will improve over time and you will find your voice and the heart you want to put into your stories. Being an author is hard work, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you want it bad enough you have to put in the time and effort and not give up. Surround yourself with critique partners, writing buddies, and cheerleaders. The journey is a joy.
Wonderful advice! Cheerleaders are a great addition and a huge motivator to keep going on this journey.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Oh I wish I did! I am out on submission with an option book and then a chapter book (set in a swamp!), and will go out on submission with a new picture book sometime this quarter. Hopefully more good news is on the horizon!
I wish you the best of luck with your submissions and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Where can people connect more with you?
Readers be sure to check out IT WILL BE OK: A STORY OF EMPATHY, FRIENDSHIP, AND KINDNESS by Lisa Katzenberger, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett and out now by Sourcebooks Kids.
Lisa is generously offering a copy of her latest book, IT WILL BE OK: A STORY OF EMPATHY, FRIENDSHIP, AND KINDNESS to one lucky winner.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB and tell me in the comments that you did.
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ABOUT LISA KATZENBERGER
Growing up as the youngest of eight children, I had a vast imagination to keep me busy. I began my writing journey in third grade with an innocent creative writing assignment set in a haunted house. After 20 minutes had passed, and it was time for social studies or some other such nonsense, I told my teacher I hadn't finished my story and had much more to say. "Well, keep writing then," Mrs. Nagratski said. She let me ignore the rest of the day's assignments and focus on my writing. I haven't stopped since.
Many years later, trying to make my writing passion legitimate, I obtained a bachelor's degree in Journalism and embarked on a career as a technical writer. But I continued to pursue my love of writing. I took every creative writing class I could get my hands on. I started writing short stories, then dove into novels. I took a little pause when my kids were born, and then moved into writing picture books. I also write articles, mostly kid-focused, and personal essays about motherhood.
I live in La Grange, IL in a hundred-year-old Victorian house with sloping hardwood floors, glass doorknobs, and the tiniest bathroom you've ever seen. I have a great husband and amazing boy-girl twins. I'm an active member of SCBWI, where I volunteer as the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI-Illinois region. I work part-time as a technical writing consultant to fund my writing conference habit. I am represented by Wendi Gu of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.
ABOUT JACLYN SINQUETT
Jaclyn Sinquett grew up playing in her dad’s garden, feeding worms to box turtles and tossing french fries to seagulls at the Jersey shore. She now spends her time painting shells with her little daughter, catching up on a certain great baking show, and illustrating books for children. Her favorite color is yellow ochre. Jaclyn received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in 2008. She is an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and is proud to be represented by Christy Tugeau Ewers at the CAT Agency.
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 Flannery Literary.