As one of the featured books in our June Book Club, Being Frank, by Donna W. Earnhardt, is one of my favorites! I first came across this book when I was researching Flashlight Press, and immediately fell in love with the play on words. I was thrilled when Donna sent me a private message on Facebook to thank me for mentioning her book! Now we get to take a peek from her side of the desk, as a writer.
Donna, I must be frank with you…I think sometimes I am little bit like Frank, from your story! He is so relatable! Well, that, and the fact that Frank and Grandpa really make me laugh! Such characters! (No pun intended.) What was your inspiration for Being Frank?
That is a loaded question, Carrie! Lots of inspiration could be found in my own house, but I didn’t realize how much until AFTER the book was written. My kids, hubby, family… me! We all say some things sometimes that are probably better left unsaid or said differently. After the book was published, I read it again… and realized that one of the lines in the story was a direct quote by my husband. (It involved glares and wrinkles!)
Were you able to communicate with Andrea Castellani, the illustrator of your book, during the editing stages?
No. Not at all. I was able to see the edits and such as the work was completed, and was able to talk to my editor about what I thought, but I was not allowed to communicate with Andrea about the illustrations during the editing stages. I think that is the way it should be! I wrote the book without his input – so he should be able to do his job without my interference. And honestly, I think Andrea is brilliant. He brought Frank to life in such a unique and wonderful way. I would have only been a hindrance! Andrea’s genius shines through on every page. I am so blessed that he is the illustrator!
Do you typically use illustration notes in your picture book submissions?
My editor, Shari Greenspan of Flashlight Press, helped me see illustration notes in a different way than I originally saw them. On one hand, I was afraid to use them… on the other hand, I am pretty sure I wasn’t using them in the correct way. So now, it depends on the story. I think I have a few illustration notes in every picture book, but I try to make sure they are necessary to the story, and not just some illustration idea I think will make the story better. The illustrations are not my job, so I’m learning to do my job – and let the illustrators do theirs!
I understand that Being Frank is the first picture book you published. Was it the first manuscript you circulated into the submission process as a picture book writer? If not, how long have you actively been submitting work as a children’s writer?
Being Frank was definitely not the first book I submitted. My first picture book submission to the world of writing for children was, um… not really a picture book at all. I thought it was. I wanted it to be. But no… not by a long shot! And by a long shot, I mean 4,000 words long. Yes, it was THAT long. In my defense, I didn’t know any better! After taking the advice of a rather peeved editor, I joined SCBWI. I have learned a lot in ten years!
One of the necessary components of being a writer is dealing with rejection. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with this?
I am not sure we have the time or internet space to discuss the amount of rejections I have had. I just received three rejections in the last 2 months. Not fun!
It has been my experience that rejections can either make you more resolved OR make you feel dejected. That being said, I might feel dejected for a short time after I receive a rejection… but then the resolve kicks in. And I’m sending out queries again!
What has been the most challenging thing for you as a writer? The most rewarding?
The most challenging has been submissions. I might get more acceptances if I just submitted more! Alas… I don’t. I need to carve out more time to send out “paper-submissions” instead of just email-submissions.
The most rewarding? That’s a tough one. I love knowing that children and adults are enjoying Being Frank. I have been told that at least one child chose it as the book they wanted to learn to read first! (FABULOUS!!) But it also makes me happy to know that my dad’s memory is being honored because the title reflects his name, too. Win-win-win!!
What types of support do you utilize as a writer?
I have critique groups and writing partners, family support, online writing communities, and I attend conferences or workshops every year when I can with SCBWI and Write2Ignite.
How did you find your critique group?
I wanted to be part of an in-person critique group so I put out a call on our local SCBWI yahoo board and... BAM! Our critique group formed! We were together for almost four years before our schedules didn't work out for in-person meetings anymore. I am still part of another group that formed through SCBWI and Verla Kay's online message board. We are the "short-stuff" group and I am very thankful for them all!
As writers, we are always looking for great resources that can help us improve our craft. Have you taken any helpful courses, either online or other?
I haven’t taken online writing courses, but as I mentioned above, I do attend conferences every year. Those are ALWAYS helpful! I have paid for critiques by other writers who have FAR more experience in the field than I do, and that has been almost as good as a writing class for me! (Check out Verla Kay’s critique service. And NO, I do NOT get any compensation for this recommendation. She is just THAT good!)
How do you balance a writing career while homeschooling your children? Do you have a special routine that you utilize that might help other writers?
That is the rub, isn’t it? I don’t balance things very well most days. We school during the days (sometimes afternoons) and that leaves the rest of the day/evening for family stuffs, errands, exercise, goofing off, etc. I get in my writing when I can. When I get an idea that is just eating at me, I might sit in the corner for hours and hours after they go to bed (or in the afternoon when everything else is finished) and type away.
But (and this is a big BUT), Some days… some weeks… I don’t write a thing. There, I said it. I don’t write every day –not even every week or month. And I don’t beat myself up about it. I just do the best I can. Does that mean that I’m not a writer? No. But it does mean that I can’t fit into the mold that I sometimes think others expect writers to fit into.
I’d love to say I have a particular routine that I use that might be helpful for others, but… I don’t. I think every person has to find what works best for their family and their writing journey.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to tell us about?
I have a couple of humorous (and mysterious) chapter books completed, a few more picture books and a YA in the works. Now if someone would just scoop them all up!
I am sure they will, Donna! Thank you so much for sharing with us today! We look forward to keeping up with you in the future!
Donna is giving away a copy of Being Frank on her blog, WordWranglerNC! But hurry, the deadline is June 14! Now, it's time to read Donna's book and submit a review to our Carrie On...Book Clubs page! Can't wait to hear from you!