The Backstory: MOONLIGHT MEMORIES
I am thrilled to welcome Amanda Davis back to the blog. Today she joins us with her latest picture book, MOONLIGHT MEMORIES (WorthyKids, 2023) with illustrations by Michelle Jing Chan. This gorgeous book offers a path forward for families dealing with loss. Keep reading to learn more and for your chance to win a signed copy.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind MOONLIGHT MEMORIES.
Thank you for having me, Andrew! I’m excited to be back and share more about Moonlight Memories!
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
MOONLIGHT MEMORIES tells the story of a young girl who is dealing with the loss of a parent and finds comfort and healing through creativity. This story holds a special place in my heart as it was inspired by my own personal experience with loss. I lost my father at a young age. After his death, I was unsure of how to cope with the unexpected loss. It wasn’t until I found art and writing that I was able to fully process the thoughts and emotions surrounding his death. I found my outlet. I found my voice. Then I soon realized that my father would always live on through the memories I was creating with my words and visuals. This experience is what led me to want to be an art educator, and later, a children’s book creator. I wanted to help others see the power of the arts. I wanted them to recognize it as a tool to learn more about themselves, others, the world around them, and a way to tell their story.
This is so beautiful, Amanda! I love how MOONLIGHT MEMORIES offers the arts and creativity as a tool for children (and adults!) to use as a form of healing. You do such a wonderful job providing this path forward for families struggling without being prescriptive of what that creativity needs to look like. This also subtly shows kids that there is no one way forward from grief and that whatever their path looks like is perfect for them.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
As mentioned, the story is based on the experience of losing my father when I was young and using the arts as a way to escape and heal. I also remember that when my dad passed away, no one really talked about it. I wrote this story so that others who’ve experienced loss will be encouraged to find their own outlets for comfort and healing. Hopefully, they will reach out for support and talk about it. I wanted to remind them they are not alone. They will carry the memories of their loved ones with them always.
Thank you for giving families a tool to discuss this sensitive topic. It is important for families to be able to have an open dialogue about their feelings and MOONLIGHT MEMORIES is the perfect tool for beginning conversations around loss and moving forward.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now MOONLIGHT MEMORIES? 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?
Considering my dad passed away many years ago, I suppose it was an event in my life that never left me. As they say, healing is not linear. I’ve written about the topic in a variety of ways but never thought about putting it into picture book form until I dove into the realm of children’s books myself. I knew it was a book that could potentially help others so even though it was tough to write, I kept reminding myself of the positive impact it may have. When I finally sat down to put pen to paper, it seemed to flow out of me. It was almost freeing-like the words were wanting and needing to be released for a long time. I’m so grateful it’s out of my own head now and into the hands of readers to interpret and enjoy.
Whether silly or sentimental, I think our books often carry with them pieces of ourselves. Sometimes we are aware of it and other times it isn't until further reflection that we notice the fragment of our younger self that needed to get out.
Did MOONLIGHT MEMORIES undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?
The core of the story has pretty much stayed the same with a few organizational and line level tweaks. The title has also seen several iterations beginning with LOOK TO THE SKY, then MUSEUM OF MEMORIES and finally found its way to becoming MOONLIGHT MEMORIES.
That is great that it didn't need to undergo much in the way of revision. And I LOVE the title you landed on!
Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on MOONLIGHT MEMORIES?
Since my first three books all deal with overcoming difficult times and have themes of loss, hope, and healing, I seem to be drawn to books with similar topics. Some of my recent favorites include: CALLING THE WIND written by Trudy Ludwig and Illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi, DADDY & ME SIDE BY SIDE by Pierce Freelon and Nadia Fisher, ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA by Ana Siqueira/Elisa Chavarri, OUR ROOF IS BLUE by Sara E. Echenique and Ashley Vargas, and DEAR STAR BABY by Malcolm Newsome and Kamala Nair.
Such wonderful books! MOONLIGHT MEMORIES fits in with them perfectly.
As writers, there are so many amazing resources available from books to webinars to organizations. What kidlit resources have been the most beneficial to you?
I recently signed up for a collage class through Storyteller Academy with Vanessa Brantley-Newton. I love their classes and especially Vanessa’s positivity and enthusiasm as an instructor. I wanted a class where I could let go of the pressure to create something for a project and instead just have fun and play. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, I believe artmaking to be therapeutic for all and allows us to tap into our creativity in both the mind and body. I love Storyteller Academy’s classes because there’s always a range of levels from beginner to advanced. I also recommend webinars with The Writer’s Loft here in Massachusetts and The Writing Barn out of Austin, Texas. They both have a great variety in regards to content and instructors. I’ve enjoyed the ongoing camaraderie of our local NESCBWI community and the online 12x12 and KidLit411 communities, too! Lastly, I was recently introduced to the London Writers’ Salon’s Writers’ Hour. It’s a free working meeting held virtually each weekday morning at 8am across four timezones. Pretty cool to start the day by connecting with so many creatives across the world!
You have named so many great groups and resources. It certainly sounds like you have plenty of professional organizations to keep you busy and inspired. The London Writers’ Salon’s Writers’ Hour is a new one to me that I will need to check out this summer. Thanks for sharing!
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Yes! I have another (unannounced) nonfiction picture book slated for 2024, which is about the human-animal bond. The book also has themes of loss and healing in it as well. I love nonfiction and animals so this was a fun one to write. I also tried out a new story structure, which was both challenging and exciting to create!
Congratulations! I can't wait to hear more about your new book, especially about the story structure.
Where can people connect more with you?
You can learn more about me on my website at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art. I’m also on Facebook at Amanda Davis Art & Writing.
Readers be sure to connect with Amanda on social media and to check out her website. She has a wonderful blog there as well as her stunning portfolio. And of course, if you are able to please consider purchasing, placing a library request, or helping spread the word about MOONLIGHT MEMORIES (WorthyKids, 2023) with illustrations by Michelle Jing Chan.
Amanda, thank you so much for joining us and sharing the story behind MOONLIGHT MEMORIES. You and Michelle have created a gorgeous collaboration that will help so many families begin to heal.
Thanks again for having me. It was a blast chatting!
Amanda is generously offering one winner a signed copy of MOONLIGHT MEMORIES. (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. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT AMANDA DAVIS
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of the award-winning picture book, 30,000
Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, Moonlight Memories and a yet to be announced forthcoming title. She also has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology: Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children. Amanda has over ten years of experience as a classroom teacher and was selected as Massachusetts Secondary Art Educator of the Year. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her family and her rescue pup, Cora.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.
Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2024) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.
Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.