It is my pleasure to welcome Serena Gingold Allen to share the backstory behind her forthcoming board books, MOONLIGHT PRANCE and SUNRISE DANCE (Chronicle Books, 2022) with illustrations by Teagan White. Playful rhymes and beautiful illustrations make these perfect additions to any home library. Read on to discover Serena's inspiration and for your chance to win a copy of one of her books.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind MOONLIGHT PRANCE and SUNRISE DANCE.
First off, please tell us a little bit about each story.
Moonlight Prance is a bedtime story that imagines the antics of playful nocturnal animals during a fun-filled night. In Sunrise Dance, animals are waking up and dancing around as they prepare for a sun-filled day. Both are board books that feature rhyming couplets, rich vocabulary, and sturdy push-pull tabs.
I love the concept behind each of these and Teagan White's illustrations are gorgeous. These are the types of board books I would have snapped up in a second for my young children. And the push-pull tabs can only increase the engagement a child would have with the book, making them love it even more.
What’s the story behind the stories? What was your inspiration? Where did the ideas come from?
For Moonlight Prance, I was awake one night breastfeeding my son when I started to wonder who else was awake. I imagined all the local nocturnal animals having fun while I was stuck indoors. And then the first couplet of the story popped into my head. My editor asked me to write a companion to go along with Moonlight Prance. She wanted a daytime, spring-y book with lots of fun movement to match Moonlight Prance. I wanted to write a morning book for my son who loved being read to first thing upon waking. I had used “boogie-woogie” in Moonlight Prance and I thought using more dance names would be fun. And that’s how I got started writing Sunrise Dance.
It is amazing what stories can develop when we follow where our minds want to wander. And how incredible that the editor wanted the companion book right from the start. It seems like the two were always meant to be together.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now MOONLIGHT PRANCE and SUNRISE DANCE? 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?
With Moonlight Prance, I wrote down the first couplet in the middle of the night not long after it popped into my head. In the morning, I started researching nocturnal animals right away. I made a list of possibilities and then explored fun-sounding action verbs like “frolic” and “cavort.” Once I had my two lists, I thought it would be fun to use alliteration and then the rhyming couplets poured out. I mean, they weren’t perfect because I had never written in rhyme before, but I wrote the first draft really quickly. I wrote the first version of Sunrise Dance really quickly too because my editor wanted to see a draft before acquiring both stories. I researched dance names and diurnal animals for Sunrise Dance and made lists as I had done for Moonlight Prance. I wanted to continue with the same alliterative structure I had used too, so that helped guide me as I wrote a first draft.
I love this sneak peek into your process of developing each story. It is so cool to get a glimpse into what your brainstorms and drafts may have looked like.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
A lot of ideas pop into my head in the middle of the night (with a two-year-old and a six-year-old I still spend part of most nights awake). I’ve found story ideas in conversations with friends and family, things my kids do, books I’ve read…there are ideas all around. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to interrupt what I’m doing to jot down an idea.
While I do not envy your lack of sleep, the quiet of the night can be a magical time to create and be inspired. I appreciate your willingness to make sure that those bits of ideas make it to paper despite what you are in the middle of. We all know how quickly those ideas evaporate if we wait too long.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
I decided I wanted to write children’s books when I was a kid and it was because I loved reading so much. Some of my favorites were Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries; Pippi Longstocking books; the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace; Baby Island, Family Sabbatical, and Mademoiselle Misfortune by Carol Ryrie Brink; The Secret Garden, the Anne of Green Gables series; and the Famous Five series. I’ve shared some of these with my six-year-old son recently and his delight reminds me why these books were inspirational.
All wonderful sources of inspiration. Reliving the love for these pieces with your son must have been such a wonderful experience and what a great way to impart a passion for reading.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
I usually have music playing quietly (I like to put my song collection on random so I get a bit of a coffee shop vibe) and I often have a cup of decaf coffee or tea on hand. I like having stuff to look at for when I need to space out so I have some photos and my rock/shell/sea glass collection. I also like looking at the garden through the window next to my desk. I have a framed copy of the email from my editor where she says she wants to acquire Moonlight Prance. And depending on what I’m writing, I have two dictionaries (rhyming and standard), two thesauruses (standard and emotion), notes from my critique partners if I’m revising, a million tabs open on my laptop to search for things, my phone (sometimes I prefer to look things up there instead of on my laptop), and a couple of notebooks for jotting things down (one is just for story ideas and one is general notes).
Such an inviting space to create in! Framing that acceptance is a wonderful reminder and I love all of the little trinkets around to inspire you.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
This isn’t inspirational, but here’s the advice I give when I talk to anyone who wants to write: read craft books that are specific to what you want to write, join a critique group with writers who write what you write, join SCBWI, try writing your stories in different ways, and don’t give up—somewhere out there in the publishing industry is a person who will appreciate what you write.
Superb advice! Especially for beginning writers, taking these steps are essential to learning your craft, discovering your voice, and finding your people.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Nothing too exciting—I’m just in the trenches submitting a couple of stories to agents and editors.
Best of luck to you while in the trenches. I look forward to hearing good news soon!
Where can people connect more with you?
I’d love to connect with people on Instagram @serenagingoldallen or Twitter @serenagingold
People can also visit my website: serenagingoldallen.com (I have some great resources there including back-issues of my author newsletter that include fun activities to go along with my books).
Readers please be sure to connect with Serena and keep your eyes open for her upcoming releases, MOONLIGHT PRANCE and SUNRISE DANCE, both releasing this April from Chronicle Books, with illustrations from Teagan White.
Serena thank you so much for joining us today. It was so wonderful getting to know more about your process and forthcoming books. I can't wait to add both of them to my personal library.
Serena is generously offering a book giveaway! One lucky winner will be randomly chosen to receive MOONLIGHT PRANCE and another winner will be chosen to receive SUNRISE DANCE. (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 SERENA GINGOLD ALLEN
Serena Gingold Allen grew up in the foothills outside of Yosemite National Park, where she spent her childhood observing the natural world. Serena taught elementary school for a decade, but she now writes full-time. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her free-time in the great outdoors hiking, rock climbing, and sharing her love of nature with her husband and their two children.
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.