Interview and GIVEAWAY with Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert Bedia about her Picture Book BALLOONS FOR PAPA, Illustrated by Erika Meza

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?

Liz:  

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?

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/balloons-for-papa-a-story-of-hope-and-empathy/9780063081130

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/balloons-for-papa-elizabeth-gilbert-bedia/1138123757?ean=9780063081130

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Balloons-Papa-Story-Hope-Empathy/dp/006308113X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=E6TZ3I8L38DJ&dchild=1&keywords=balloons+for+papa+a+story+of+hope+and+empathy&qid=1614914225&sprefix=balloons+for+papa%3A+%2Caps%2C168&sr=8-1

Where Can You Connect with Liz?

Website: https://elizabethgilbertbedia.com 

Twitter: @lizbedia

Instagram: @lizbedia

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.

Giveaway 

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):

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Share in the comments below that you added BALLOONS FOR PAPA to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist 
  3. Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of BALLOONS FOR PAPA . 
  4. Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for BALLOONS FOR PAPA at your library
  5. If you’ve read BALLOONS FOR PAPA, share in the comments that you’ve left a critique on Amazon or Goodreads.
  6. 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!

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

76 thoughts on “Interview and GIVEAWAY with Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert Bedia about her Picture Book BALLOONS FOR PAPA, Illustrated by Erika Meza

  1. BALLOONS FOR PAPA looks wonderful! I’ve added it to my Goodreads list and requested it at my library. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for this fun interview, always inspiring to know behind-the-scene stories. Oh, and I’ve also tweeted and tagged! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Kaitlyn. I’m looking forward to this beautiful and heartfelt book and have added it to my Goodreads want to read list. I just wrote a manuscript that deals with talking through big emotions and I think Balloons for Papa will make a good mentor text and comp title.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Rose! Thank you! And, it is so wonderful you have a manuscript talking through big emotions. I think these picture books are SO needed and important. I hope you enjoy BALLOONS. I am humbled you think it would make a good mentor text. I hope it does. 🙂 Thank you again!

      Like

  3. I can relate to the message of this sweet picture book. No matter the situation, we can look around and find joy, find empathy, find love. Our lives are filled with all kinds of emotions.

    Thank you Kaitlyn for introducing yet another amazing picture book author and illustrator to all of us. Congrats to Liz and Erika on their success! I am requesting a copy from my local library. Looking so forward to reading Balloons for Papa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO much, Josette! You are so kind! I am so glad that the message of BALLOONS spoke to you. And, so true – our lives are filled with emotions – it is sometimes those tiny moments that can have a lasting impact and provide the right support we need. I hope you enjoy BALLOONS FOR PAPA! Thank you again for your kindness!❤️

      Like

  4. Sounds like an amazing book. Thanks for the great interview! Can’t wait to read this.
    Added to Goodreads “Want to Read” list, requested my library purchase it, and quote RT + tag on twitter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an amazing book. Thanks so much for this interview, Kaitlyn. Balloons for Papa helps people heal and connect. With the book’s beautiful marriage of words and illustrations,there is so much respect and empathy in Elizabeth Bedia’s story. I’ve added the book to my Goodreads list and made a purchase request at our library. I’ll be sharing this information about this important book on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Helen! Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree more with you about the marriage of words and illustrations. 🙂 Time and time again throughout the process, Erika read my mind. Her illustrations breathe life into my words. I hope you enjoy BALLOONS! Thank you again and again for your kind support!❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are very welcome. Your book deals with a serious issue and in such a thoughtful way. I am looking forward to reading it and sharing it with many. Your imaginative intelligence shines in this important story.

        Like

  6. This interview spoke to my late-in-life-writer heart! I get so excited when I see that “older” people like me create their dreams! “Dreams don’t have deadlines. Dreams don’t have wrinkles!” -Dedra haha

    And this book looks dreamy and is so needed to spread color in this black and white and grey world!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Dedra! You are the best! You made me chuckle!! Amen to dreams not having deadlines! And, the wrinkles, well…they bring wisdom, right?😍 Thanks SO much for reading and your kind support! ❤️I hope you enjoy BALLOONS!!

      Like

  7. I was truly moved by this interview and by BALLOONS FOR PAPA. With a universalism perfect for any time, this book is certainly perfect for current times. We’ve all needed a yellow balloon sometime in the past year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Claire! I am so glad the interview spoke to you. I truly hope you enjoy BALLOONS! And, yes, we all need a yellow balloon from time to time…and sweet yellow boots, too. 😍 Thank you again for your kindness!❤️

      Like

  8. Yes, kids are very perceptive and I know my own have surprised me with what they know about how people are feeling. I added this beautiful book to my Goodreads. Thank you to the author for sharing her personal story with us.

    Like

  9. I so enjoyed this interview. As a mental health professional, I can’t wait to read this beautiful and important book. Congratulations, Liz!
    (I have retweeted and added to my Goodreads “want to read” list.)

    Like

    1. Oh, Ann! Thank you! It is our hope that it will act as a springboard for conversations between young children and their parents. I truly hope you enjoy BALLOONS. Thank you again for tuning in!❤️

      Like

  10. I’m looking forward to reading Elizabeth’s book. Those times of gray take a toll on the whole family. Congratulations Elizabeth for adding light to the darkness.

    Like

  11. This book sounds fantastic! I have, of course, already added it to my “to read” list. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Congratulations!

    Like

  12. I’m so excited to read this book! It’s heart and subject matter will no doubt touch so many readers!
    I shared on Twitter and listed it on my Goodreads page! Congratulations, Liz!

    Like

  13. I am so glad I learned about this book. I have added it to my “want to read” list on Goodreads. There can never be too many books about mental health issues for our younger readers. Thank you for writing it.

    Like

  14. I am so excited to read this book! Won’t be long ’til its release so I can. Yay! I marked it on my to-read list and possible future order in our school library. RT’d on Twitter just to get the word out. The message of this book is needed!

    Like

  15. This looks like a book I need to get my hands on. I love the way the illustrations have used black & white with color judiciously added. I have a manuscript that I visualize that way as well. Great interview.

    Like

  16. Thank you for this interview, Kaitlyn! I’m always fascinated by the deeper truths behind stories. And this one is so sweet and real and important. The illustrations look magical. I ordered, added to Goodreads to-read and retweeted. I just learned our local branch library is doing a “slow reopen”, so I will do a purchase request there as well.

    Like

  17. BALLOONS FOR PAPA looks to be an amazing book. I added it to my Goodreads “Want to Read” list because, why wouldn’t I want to read it!
    I’ve also asked my library to order it because really EVERYONE should read it.

    Like

  18. This looks so beautiful! I’m immediately drawn to the art. I couldn’t believe that the SFPL didn’t have it on order, so I suggested it. Also placed it on my TBR Goodreads list. And tweeted. Cheers!

    Like

  19. Cannot wait to read this book! It carries such an important message!
    The illustrations..wow! Pops of color certainly add to the story.
    On my goodreads list. Will ask our school library and town library to please order it as well!
    Thanks for this amazing post!
    😊

    Like

  20. I loved this interview, and hearing about the pub journey for BALLOONS FOR PAPA. And I really appreciate your wonderful advice at the end…patiently awaiting my sprinkle of luck! I can’t wait to add this beautiful and important book to my library.

    Like

    1. Thanks SO much for tuning in, Penelope!! I have my fingers crossed for your sprinkle of luck. Keep at it! It is only a matter of time. Thanks again for your kindness!❤️

      Like

  21. Bess the Barn Stands Strong is a beautiful book. Balloons for Papa looks just as special. I look forward to reading it.

    Like

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