The Backstory: WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?
I am delighted to welcome Norene Paulson to The Backstory today. Norene is the author of BENNY'S TRUE COLORS and the forthcoming, WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? releasing on March 1.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Thanks for inviting me, Andrew. I’m excited to be here and share a little about myself and my second picture book with your readers. WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? is the story of a young girl with alopecia who has to figure out a way to participate in Silly Hair Day despite being bald.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
I write stories of friendship, acceptance and inclusion and am a firm believer that every child deserves to see themselves in the pages of the books they read or have read to them. I’ve known several people in my life with hair loss due to alopecia or cancer treatment. Through them, I became familiar with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF.org). When I learned that hair loss affects millions of kids but is most common in children 5-12 years of age, I knew I wanted to write a story with a MC that kids with hair loss could connect with.
I am inspired by your response. I love how you took these experiences and connections from your own life and found a way to create a story that will make so many people feel seen in a PB, quite possibly for the first time. What a gift you have given them and a service you have done in raising awareness and tolerance for kids and families who may be less aware.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? 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 seed of an idea swirls around in my head for however long it takes me to figure out how to grow it into a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I generally don’t sit down to write until I have a least a rudimentary plan on where the story is headed.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
As a former teacher, many of my story ideas come from my experiences working with students not so much specific events but their struggles to be included and to be accepted. I also might observe something or read an interesting tidbit that starts me asking “Why?” or “What if?”.
I really appreciate your focus on childhood struggles and the desire to belong. As a teacher and parent of young kids, I witness this regularly. All kids want to find their place and feel accepted. Picture books are a perfect place for children to find this.
What has inspired/impacted your writing the most?
The two ICL (Institute of Children’s Literature) classes I took when I first got the itch to write for kids inspired me and gave me the confidence to believe that maybe I had “it” and could one day became a published author. My critique group has been the most impactful on my writing. Early in my writing journey, I was fortunate to land in a group with some very talented, very prolific published authors whose writing I had (and still have) the privilege of reading. I’ve learned so much seeing how they develop their story seeds and getting their feedback as I develop mine. I would not be published without either of these two things.
We've talked about critique groups a bunch here on The Backstory, but I appreciate your focus on how your inclusion in the group allowed you to grow not just from your CPs advice, but from watching their process and development. I think when we are beginning we really don't know what our process is and being exposed to what works for others is a great way of sampling various methods.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
We have an office/computer room upstairs, but it’s cramped and has no windows. It’s not a space conducive to creativity, so I always wrote at our kitchen counter table. The closer the pub date came for my debut the more “stuff” I seemed to accumulate until our kitchen eating space was compromised. That’s when we carved out a corner workspace for me in our front room. I love it and it has all I need—a huge window, plenty of space, comfy furniture for needed breaks, a desk with drawers for all my post-it notes, note pads, etc., plus a warmer for my cup of hot tea. Those are my must-haves.
Your workspace looks so inviting (and clean)! I love the prints you have of your covers.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t lose hope. It took me decades, literally, before I connected with my agent and sold my first book. There’s no Best Used By date stamped on your dreams.
Great advice! We hear it time and time again about the persistence it takes to break into the writing industry. Your "Best Used By" analogy is just perfect.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I have my fingers crossed for several projects out on submission now, and the seed of an idea for another story featuring Bea is swirling around in my head.
I will keep my fingers crossed for you too! I can't wait to see what's next for you (and Bea)!
Where can people connect more with you?
I’d love to connect with your readers. Find me here:
Thank you so much for joining us and sharing the story behind WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? It has been a pleasure getting to know about your process and inspiration!
Thank you for hosting me. It’s been fun!
Readers WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? by Norene Paulson, illustrated by Camilla Carrossine and out by Albert Whitman & Co. releases on MARCH 1!
Be sure to check Norene's website for ordering details.
And if you want to continue to learn more about Norene and WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? be sure to follow her on her blog tour.
GIVEAWAY! Norene is generously offering a copy of her latest book, WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? to one lucky winner. Ways to enter: 1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends! or 2. Leave a comment on this post. or 3. Post about this interview on FB and tell me in the comments that you did.
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ABOUT NORENE PAULSON
Norene Paulson loves words. As a former language arts teacher, she was fortunate to share that love with middle school students in a rural Iowa school district for almost twenty years. Now as a picture book author, she continues to share her love of words with young readers. Her debut picture book BENNY'S TRUE COLORS illustrated by Anne Passchier (Imprint/Macmillan) released in November 2020. Her second book, WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR? illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Albert Whitman) releases in March 2021. Norene lives on an acreage with her husband and a rescue pup named Ellie. When she isn't reading or writing, you'll find her playing--you guessed it!--word games.
ABOUT CAMILLA CARROSSINE
I was born and live in São Paulo, one gigantic city in Brazil.
I draw since I was a little girl. At first at the walls of my bedroom and today I draw on the pages of the books.
Illustrating books (or magazines, or websites, or e-books) became my career. I'm also a writer, so I illustrate other writers' books and sometimes my own words.
Represented by the Bright 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.