Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Today we have an extra special interview about one of my favorite picture books ever written! We get to chat with the amazingly kind and wonderful picture book writer Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert Bedia, about her newest released picture book, BALLOONS FOR PAPA, illustrated by Erika Meza, which I fell in love with when it came out first in the UK as Arthur Wants a Balloon.
Book description from HarperCollins:
A perfect book to help discuss mental health, depression, empathy, loss, and hope with young children. Arthur’s gloomy father rushes him through the park every morning, through gray and rainy weather. Arthur just wants a bright balloon from the park’s vendor, but Papa always says no. One morning, the balloons magically appear at their doorstep, and Arthur figures out the perfect way to bring the sunshine out—and Papa’s smile back—even if only for a few moments. Brimming with affecting and poignant words, beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and bursts of color on every page, Balloons for Papa sends the message that even in the worst situations, there is light and love.
Kaitlyn: Hi Liz, thanks so much for being here today!
Liz: Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog, Kaitlyn!!
Kaitlyn: Aw you’re so kind, Liz, and that kindness seeps into all your books. To start off, can you share what inspired this beautiful and needed book?
Liz: The inspiration for BALLOONS FOR PAPA came from my own two children and their own ability to express empathy and hope in tough moments.
Inspiration for writers comes from everywhere. It’s all around us, but sometimes it is the memories of vivid moments in our past that flood in when we are writing. That’s what happened with BALLOONS FOR PAPA.
I have suffered from mild bouts of depression in my life, the first ones being after the births of my two children. One vivid memory was when my newborn daughter was crying inconsolably one day and I had tried everything to soothe her, but nothing was working. I was exhausted and struggling to keep it all together. What I remembered the most was not how deeply sad I was or how out of control I felt – it was the genuine compassion of my very young son asking if I was okay and if he could help. That simple, small gesture let me I know I wasn’t alone and that someone cared at that very moment. Another instance was a few years ago when my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer – we reeled as a family. One day shortly after my husband’s diagnosis, my daughter turned as she got out of the car at school and said – “Mom, I’m here. I’ll be strong for all of us, especially for Dad.” Then, she turned and trotted into school. I had written a few drafts of ARTHUR/BALLOONS prior to my husband’s diagnosis. Aside from the tears welling up at her sheer strength, it was her empathy and hopeful outlook that solidified Arthur’s character and the storyline for me.
Kaitlyn: Wow, I got the chills multiple times just now. Your family sounds wonderful, and I’m so glad your kids were there for you when you needed, as I’m sure you’ve always been there for them, too. I’ve had similar experiences with my daughter, especially during COVID when sometimes, out of nowhere, I just lean on my husband and cry and she comes to comfort me, saying something like “Mommy, are you crying? I’ll cuddle you.” Those sweet words from her little being just produces the biggest smile. I think we all can relate to this powerful story, can you share why you think this book is so important to share with our little ones?
Liz: Thank you, Kaitlyn. Aren’t kids amazingly wise and perspective? They are so compassionate beyond their small size. I loved hearing the story of your own daughter providing support in a small but impactful way. I think as adults we sometimes forgot, they have big emotions and feel deeply, just as we do. Their small, simple gestures can make such a difference in our lives. It’s my hope that BALLOONS FOR PAPA might serve as a conversation starter between a child and a parent, and shine that small bit of hope through the clouds.
Kaitlyn: I believe you’ve definitely achieved this in BALLOONS FOR PAPA, which started in the UK with Trigger Publishing. Then, recently, HarperCollins bought the North American rights. Can you share a bit about how you sold the book in the first place, and how it came to be bought by HarperCollins?
Liz: Sure. I first submitted the manuscript to Alli Brydon at Trigger Publishing. I was unagented at the time. Months after, Alli emailed me and said she was interested in taking it to acquisitions, but would I be open to a few revisions. I replied with a resounding “Yes!!!” I was over the moon! Alli is an amazing editor! I knew she saw my vision for ARTHUR WANTS A BALLOON. Our stories are like our babies, right? We send them out in the world hoping they will find the perfect home. Alli and Trigger Publishing provided that to ARTHUR and to me. Then, one year after ARTHUR was acquired by Trigger, I received word that one of the big five publishers was interested in acquiring the North American rights for ARTHUR. A few months later HarperCollins acquired ARTHUR, now known as BALLOONS FOR PAPA in the US. And, I was over the moon again!
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing. I love the proactive way you went about getting your book into the world, and Trigger Publishing’s proactive way of getting it to even more readers! Who is your editor for BALLOONS FOR PAPA? How did this editor and the HarperCollins team help edit this book for the US audience?
Liz: The amazing Luana Horry!
That’s a great question, Kaitlyn!
Luana and the team at HarperCollins did ask for a few thoughtful text revisions. They wanted to make sure the reader knew clearly that Mama is in the hospital from the start and that Arthur knew his dad’s sadness wasn’t his fault. Both very important points for young readers to understand and I think the changes work brilliantly in the US version. The team at Harper also asked to expand the backmatter. In the final version, this became my author’s note.
Kaitlyn: Luana Horry is amazing and the edits that her and her team came up with somehow made me fall EVEN MORE in love with this book, and you know I fell in love from the start, so that’s HUGE. One of the powerful parts of this story is how the art matches your beautiful writing so brilliantly. Is Erika’s art how you imagined the story in your head? Also whose idea was the gray scale with pops of significant color (so brilliant!)?
Liz: Oh my goodness! Erika’s artwork! Isn’t it gorgeous?! I couldn’t have wished for more amazing illustrator to collaborate with on this project. Erika and her art are brilliant, insightful, and so very genuine. To this day, I swear she is a mind reader. Every detail from Arthur’s sweet yellow boots, the maternal balloon seller and her balloons, Papa’s expressions, even the watchful birds are just as I imagined but amplified tenfold! So amazing!
You are so sweet, Kaitlyn! To answer the question about the grayscale with pops of color – I must give all of the credit to Erika and Alli Brydon, our UK editor. But on the original manuscript I submitted to Alli, I did have a brief note above the title saying in part – “Set in a gloomy town…only brief pops of color are introduced as the story progresses until the climax and resolution.” So I guess I had a tiny bit of input, but the AMAZING end result is all Erika’s and Alli’s! 🙂
Kaitlyn: You are so humble, Liz, it sounds like the idea was there from the start and you found the perfect team to bring it to life. You can’t get better than that! Can you share who your literary agent is and why you enjoy working with her?
Liz: Yes, I sure can! My literary agent is Charlotte Wenger of Prospect Agency. I have so many reasons I enjoy working with Charlotte, but the main reason is she gets me and my writing. When I was querying agents – I knew I wanted an agent who understood my work and cared about it as much as I did. And, lucky for me – Charlotte does! Also, she is amazingly kind and a calming force. Publishing is a tough business, and I am a total worrywart and not as patient as I should be. Charlotte is my Zen. She’s amazing!
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful to have someone to champion your work and support you as a person in this up-and-down business. It sounds like you knew what you were looking for, can you help some others learn what they’re looking for by offering some advice for up-and-coming writers?
Work hard: Never say never. It is never too late to pursue your dream. I was 50 before my first picture book was published and I worked for over a decade on my writing before my manuscripts were considered for publication.
Learn unceasingly: Read. Read. Read.
Have faith: Believe in yourself and have faith in your work.
Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. (This is still the most difficult one for me.)
Your time will come: If you have done all of these things and done them well, then know with a sprinkle of luck…it’s only a matter of time.
Kaitlyn: Wow, this answer totally shows that you’re a picture book writer at heart: every answer was concise yet incredibly powerful! How about an empowering concept book next, my friend? Speaking of next, can you each share a bit about your next book(s) and/or projects you’re working on now?
Liz: Aww, thanks, Kaitlyn! YES! I would love to write an empowering concept book! Next up – well, you know I usually gravitate toward writing fiction picture books, but currently I have switched gears and am working on a lyrical nonfiction picture book that utilizes my background in audiology. It’s been a lot of fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something new!
Kaitlyn: Wow, aren’t you full of wonderful surprises? We’ll need to dive more into your audiology background next time. Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Liz: Oh! Definitely an adventure! I am an outdoorsy gal and I love to be on the move. Hopefully, my favorite author – Judy Blume – would agree. 🙂
Kaitlyn: Woohoo! I bet she would agree! Thanks so much again for joining us and sharing such wonderful insight today!
Liz: You are so kind!! It has been my absolute pleasure, Kaitlyn! Thank you again!
Where Can You Buy BALLOONS FOR PAPA?
Where Can You Connect with Liz?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia’s Bio
Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert Bedia grew up in the rural Midwest surrounded by fields, blue sky, and a multitude of animals, where she became a keen observer with a big imagination. Liz loved creating stories about the world around her and turned to books to learn more. After college she worked as a researcher, educator, and audiologist. While raising her own children, she returned to her creative roots and started writing books for children. She loves creating heartfelt stories for children about our amazing world. She is the author of Bess the Barn Stands Strong (Page Street Kids), Arthur Wants a Balloon (Trigger Publishing, UK), and the forthcoming Balloons for Papa (HarperCollins). Liz lives in central Iowa with her husband, two children, and two dogs. For more information, visit: elizabethgilbertbedia.com.
Kaitlyn’s Review of BALLOONS FOR PAPA
Balloons for Papa is one of my favorite picture books of all time. This story is stunning from the text to the art. It’s a story that everyone can relate to, and that’s so important for children to see and hear. To know that adults aren’t perfect; they have issues, too, and sometimes, it’s the little happinesses that kids can see that help bring hope back into our lives.
Do you want to win a signed copy of BALLOONS FOR PAPA? (US only please)
Here are all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added BALLOONS FOR PAPA to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of BALLOONS FOR PAPA .
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for BALLOONS FOR PAPA at your library
- If you’ve read BALLOONS FOR PAPA, share in the comments that you’ve left a critique on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for supporting such a wonderful creator and her powerful book! I hope you’re all doing well and if you haven’t started working on your Spring Fling Kidlit Contest entry, hop on it! You have less than a month to get your entry ready, and Ciara will be posting about all the wonderful prize donors very soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez