Author Spotlight: Ann Ingalls

Author Spotlight: Ann Ingalls

Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight! Fact: it is also Tuesday on the moon.

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We had an amazing turnout for Alastair Heim's Author Spotlight and giveaway. Thank you so much for participating. If you happened to miss his Spotlight Interview, you can read it here.

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Today I am super jazzed to share an Author Spotlight with my friend, Ann Ingalls. I met Ann back in the day as a young, foolish twenty-something. I had a head full of dreams and hands full of crepes (I worked at a creperie cafe). After discovering she was a kid lit author, I shared that I was an aspiring writer. She was kind enough to let me email some of my stories for feedback, and over the years she has been a source of encouragement and support.

Simply put...Ann is wonderful. And so are her books!

2019 has been a whirlwind of achievement for Ann Ingalls (4 books published!!!), so we have a lot to celebrate. Her critiques are also laser sharp (and kind). Perhaps one of your manuscripts could use the insight of a seasoned, published, (did I mention kind) author such as Ann...

If only there were a manuscript critique giveaway opportunity...OH WAIT. THERE IS.

That's right! Ann has offered to do a one-time picture book manuscript critique for one lucky winner. But first, take the time to read her Author Spotlight!

Here's Ann Ingalls!

That would be coffee. And by the way, doesn’t chocolate go well with coffee?

Name three things you can’t do your job without.

Laptop, critique group, and the internet. How in the world would I research, see if what I’ve written is worthwhile, and get my manuscript ready for view without these three tools?

Where do you feel most inspired and why?

I am always making mental notes, sending emails to myself, and writing ideas down. The real writing happens at my kitchen counter after I’ve had a chance to process what I can do with a new name, place, or idea. I often wake up early in the morning (like 3:30am!) with a phrase, or rhyme. Why, oh why, does it have to be that early?

I am the mother of three children and was an early childhood and special education teacher for many years. I read many thousands of books to children then and still do today at library and school visits. I now have 2 absolutely (!!!) darling granddaughters. The first and last thing I want to do each day is to read to them.

Tell us about your very first book and its path to publication.

THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL: THE STORY OF MARY LOU WILLIAMS was my first picture book.

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I co-authored that with my sister, Maryann Macdonald. It was a real labor of love for both of us. Like Mary Lou, Maryann and I grew up in a large family that loved music. Mary Lou loved jazz and Maryann and I loved Motown. Still do.

Reading to children, watching their expressions, and answering their questions to the best of my ability. Of course kids always come up with a few question that make me scratch my head, but I find out their answers and get back to them. Kids make the best teachers, don’t they?

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Your new book, Pencil: A Story With A Point, is fantastic and relevant to today’s tech driven kiddos. AND THE PUNS. Bravo. How did this book come about? What is the story behind this story?

Actually, I was attempting to clean the junk drawer in my kitchen when I began to think that each item had a purpose. What if it had a personality? How might it behave? What might it say?

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Your other new book, Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly! recently got some love from the Mom’s Choice Awards. Congrats! What is the story behind this one?

I was sitting on the back porch sipping coffee with my darling husband, Winston, when a baby bird wobbled on a branch nearby. Baby robin’s mother was nearby, encouraging the fledgling and watching for predators. I felt so lucky to have a first row seat!

What a year for you! A quadruple whammy! I love Tip and Tucker. I really believe this is a series with a dynamic duo any emerging reader would enjoy.

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When I finished Tip and Tucker Road Trip, I was honestly sad it ended. I wanted more of them! What does it mean to you to have four books coming out in one year?

You’ll be happy to know that Sleeping Bear left a few slots on their 2020 list for a couple more of these books, assuming that the first two sell well. Please cross your pinkies! As far as having 4 new books out this year, it means that I have been too busy to floss my teeth at times. My dentist has already figured this out. Seriously, every day for the last six months has been taken up with planning for events, ordering supplies, making changes to upcoming books, and giving presentations. I still have 5 more this spring. It’s all good but kind of crazy!

Last fall I did reach out to several school districts and libraries. Some were interested, others not. Once in a while, I post on Twitter. I have to admit that I love the research and writing, and social media, not so much.

You have been someone that has encouraged me in my writing for many years. I have seen such a great hunger for community in this industry. Many writers participate in multiple critique groups, and countless writers are competing for mentorship opportunities. What role has community played in your writing career and why is it so vital to pursue?

I think it’s vital to find a critique group or two that understands your work and your purpose in writing what you choose. Don’t hesitate to step out of a group and into another when needed. I worked with some very fine writers who moved to novels, something I’ve not been able to do so far. I no longer felt adequate to the task of critiquing their work. Don’t spread yourself too thin with many groups. It won’t leave you any time for your won writing.

The first thing I look at is the story and its arc. I then attend to character development, story arc, and word count. Who is the audience for the intended book? Often there is more than one audience—the child reader or listener and the adult reader--teacher, parent or grandparent.

You have a great website that shows what you offer for school visits. Why is visiting schools an important practice in your author work-life?

You can take the teacher out of the school. Can you take the school out of the teacher? Not in my case. I still love the process. I work with several writers privately and teach classes on writing picture books and emergent readers. I’ve got 3 new leveled readers out this year with Teacher Created Materials. Check out Clever Animals and see what you think.

For your school visits what do you hope to accomplish with each visit, and what are some of your favorite things to do with the kids?

I always read a book or two and I always have some active game. Children can’t sit still and attend forever without a short break. I plan about 6 or 7 activities and will often use 5 of them. Sometimes I suggest a simple craft and bring the items needed to complete that.When I visit schools with FAIRY FLOSS: THE SWEET STORY OF COTTON CANDY!, we make some. That is a big hit!

No matter how hard you work, you will receive many, many rejections. Even the best of authors do. Jane Yolen, certainly one of my all-time favorites still gets them now and then. If she can accept that, I can too. Take some time each day to study the marketplace. That has upped my sales considerably. You’ll know if the editor you want to send your manuscript to already has a book on aardvarks.

What have been some helpful writer resources for you that you would recommend?

Far and away, the best writer resource I know of is SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Nothing else even comes close. Read the Bulletin, study the website, attend the conferences. It will make a tremendous difference in your sales.

My agent is going to send out another “punny” book just completed. I don’t know yet where she intends to send it but am excited just the same. My writer friend, Jane True, and I completed a picture book biography on a prominent woman in recent history. It’s been sitting on an editor’s desk for about a month now. I don’t mind saying that I’m getting a bit itchy while waiting for a response. The editor loved our topic and asked us to make changes. Here’s hoping she goes for it! And that darling illustrator Laura Hulska-Beith and I have teamed up to build a book for a good cause. It’s called WHEN BABY SLEEPS and will support the education of parents and caregivers to prevent Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. Not exactly sure when that book will release.

What are some picture books published recently that have inspired you or had you laughing out loud?

I have actually been studying a few old favorite books and am rediscovering why there have been so successful. Here are some of the best in my mind’s eye:

TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES by Mem Fox

Anything by Joy Cowley!

CLOWN OF GOD and OLIVER BUTTON IS A SISSY by Tomie de Paola

PINK AND SAY by Patricia Polocco

And the list goes on and on and on…