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Meet our May Guru - Author Bonnie Goldberg

1. What do you LOVE about children’s books? 

So many things! In picture books, I love the use of language: pacing, rhythm, literary devices, typeface, etc. To me the words in all picture books are poems. I love the weaving of the words and the illustrations, especially when they’re done by two different creatives. And I love that both young readers and their adults experience the story together.

2. What brought you to children’s books? 

When I first started writing creatively, I wrote poems. The combination of having a young child to read picture books to and my original attraction to poetry drew me towards picture books. I’ve always enjoyed collaborations with other creatives as well. I also appreciate the multigenerational audience. Of course, children are the primary audience for picture books, but adults are reading them too.

3. Name something you loved / enjoyed as a child?

I loved spending weekends at the home of my grandparents. Everything there was child centered. I grew up in New York City and my grandparents lived in Brooklyn. I thought Brooklyn was the country because it had so many more trees than Manhattan!

4. What do you look for in a project to make it a favorite, or if you are an Editor or Agent, to add a writer to your list

My favorite projects have multiple layers or hooks that combine seamlessly. 

5. Share a story that you love and why, or if you are an Editor or an Agent, a book you simply had to acquire).

My current favorite story is The Law of Birthdays: A Story About Choice by Brenna Jeanneret and illustrated by Marina Kondrakhina. In the story a king decrees that everyone in the kingdom must have cake on his birthday and a little girl says no thank you. I love how it combines the classic fairytale world with the modern theme of setting boundaries. The main character’s voice is clear, strong, and quiet at the same time. That’s not easy to do. I’m so impressed by stories like this that stand on their own as a fun narrative and at the same time include social-emotional skill building without being didactic or feeling forced.

6. What is a common issue with the submissions you receive? (Or, if you are not an editor or agent, but a Rate Your Story Judge or critiquer, common issues in manuscripts that don’t work). 

Besides telling instead of showing, the most common issue I see is that the focus or theme of the story either isn’t clear or isn’t unpacked sufficiently. 

7. Our Rate Your Story 2024 Word of the Year is Professionalism. In terms of becoming a writer, what does this word mean to you?

In the context of becoming a published writer, among other things, professionalism means being able to switch gears from the intimate relationship between you and your project to the collaborative and public realm of offering your work to others. 

8. Please share a Submission tip with our Members. 

Like many writers, submitting manuscripts is my least favorite part of being an author. To help me stay on track, I do two things. First, I make sure to start with a list of at least 12 publishers (including why I think each would be a good fit) and submit to four at a time. Second, I have a writing accountability group. Each week we report on what we accomplished the week before and our goals for the coming week.

9. Please share a Revision Tip for our Members. 

Revision is my favorite part of writing. In one of my writing advice books, The Write Balance, I devote a third of the book to revision, so I have a lot to say about it. But a tip that is especially valuable for picture book writers is to listen to someone else read your story to you. It’s one of the best ways to achieve some of the separation from your story to recognize what you need to revise so the story resonates with readers in the way it impacts you.

10. Name subjects you would like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box. 

I like to read about lesser known historical figures and events. I’m attracted to stories about resilience and seeing something from a different perspective. And I appreciate stories that use form and language in interesting and unexpected ways.

11. Name subjects you would not like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.  

I don’t know if there’s a subject that I wouldn’t want to read about. I think how a subject lands for me depends on how it’s told and the focus of the story. When I was shopping around my debut picture book, some publishing professionals told me that The Inquisition wasn’t an appropriate subject for a picture book. But I knew that I could still tell the story of the courageous woman of that time, Dona Gracia Mendes, by focusing on what she did rather than why she had to do it.

12. Share a fun fact about YOU! 

I’m a failed beauty queen. When I was little, I made my parents take me to the tryouts for Little Miss America and I didn’t even make it past the first elimination round.

About Bonni

Bonni Goldberg, award-winning poet, writer, and educator, writes non-fiction for children and adults. She is author of the picture book, Doña Gracia Saved Worlds and for adults, The Write Balance: How to Embrace Percolation, Revision & Going Public, the companion book to the best-seller Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life, Bonni speaks and offers workshops on writing and creativity internationally for all ages. She lives in Portland, Oregon. 


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