Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Today we have a special guest talking with us about a very special and important book that she illustrated.
Book description: Why is Mommy Crying? -explaining early pregnancy loss to young children comforts children as young as three, their parents, extended family, and friends.
One is often at a loss how to engage with those in grief, whether adult or child. Because miscarriage affects about a third of pregnancies, most readers likely know someone who has experienced this sadness. This beautifully illustrated, inclusive, nondenominational picture book helps recipients of every age know that the door is open, and a caring person is on the other side. Written by an experienced physician, Why is Mommy Crying? comforts in the context of family and the larger universe. Young ones are also helped in navigating their fears. The young protagonist, Max, uses his imagination, and accompanied by his stuffed animal, Mink, begins to understand what has made his mother sad. His imagery and ideas offer a gentle springboard to discuss with children and the adults who love them the broader concepts surrounding grief and recovery.
Kaitlyn: Hi Heather, thanks so much for being here today!
Heather: Hi Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for having me 😊
Kaitlyn: To start off, can you share how you became the illustrator of this beautiful and needed book?
Heather: Dr. I. Cori Baill sent me an e-mail about my SCBWI portfolio and asked if I’d be open to working on a book together. She mentioned that it was a story that had been shelved for more than twenty years, but that she still hadn’t seen many picture books addressing pregnancy loss. My son was curious and asked me to read it to him. It opened up a remarkable discussion about loss, dealing with grief, and how sometimes life doesn’t go as you expect it to. I wrote her back immediately that I would be honored to illustrate her story.
Kaitlyn: That is so beautiful and powerful, and I love how SCBWI does so much to help connect illustrators as well. Can you share why you think this book is so important to share with our little ones?
Heather: Picture books offer so many opportunities. For entertainment, for learning, and in this case, for opening up dialogue. Whenever I’m not sure how to address something with my little one, it definitely helps to have a picture book to begin. Sometimes those picture books are just as much support for the parent as they are for the children who are being read to. And I like the simplicity of Dr. Baill’s story. It allows for families to add in their own thoughts and feelings about their individual situations. Basically, a springboard for conversation.
Kaitlyn: This is so true! And I love that this book has so many opportunities for learning and opening a dialogue, especially about understanding what others are dealing with; something that’s so important for families. Can you dive into the characters you chose and why? Maybe a bit about the fun selection of night clothes, too?
Heather: Haha! Yes. Max’s outfit was a fairly fixed idea. When working traditionally, there isn’t always a chance to speak with the author about what they want. But when hired directly by an author, there’s an opportunity for back-and-forth ponderings. This story was very near and dear to the author’s heart. Based on a vivid memory, Cori wanted certain aspects to remain true to that moment. At the time, her son always wore Daddy’s jersey to bed. We spoke to the NFL to see what needed to be done to avoid copyright issues and I took lots of pictures of my (then 6-year-old) son wearing oversized jerseys to get the look down. The fuzzy slippers were a tribute to my own kiddo’s bedtime footwear. There were a lot discussions in the first month to work out all the characters, but many variations later, Max and his family just felt right. Surprisingly, the Moon took the longest and I was still making alterations towards the end.
Kaitlyn: It sounds like such a wonderful process, and I love your little ninja–as you often call him–as a model! As most readers know, you are one of my clients, can you share a bit about working with me?
Heather: ::happy dancing offscreen:: Y’all, I SOOO lucked out! My writing/illustrating journey basically began alongside Kaitlyn. She was one of my first critique partners and started the first critique group I ever joined. She is an incredible agent and has formed an astounding team that I am grateful to be part of. Her passion apparently has no limit (I’m not exactly sure how that’s possible, but that’s her). She is an editorial agent, and I love how she really pushes my writing and illustrations to be the best they can be. She shares ideas to help inspire and has an innate sense of connecting people to truly cultivate their strengths. Plus, she’s always a strong advocate of her clients’ work. So yes, I’m ecstatic to be with #TeamSanchez!
Kaitlyn: Just so you know, friends, Heather is one of the best happy dancers ever, and I’m surely not blushing (okay, I’m totally blushing). You are too sweet, and I can’t help it; when I love something, I just HAVE to share it with others, and I’m so happy to have you on our team. Thank you for believing in me and being such a wonderful part of my kidlit journey with your wonderful work as well as your amazing advice! Speaking of advice, can you offer some advice for up-and-coming illustrators?
Heather: Join critique groups. If you can handle it, join a few. You’d be surprised at how many differing opinions are out there and it really helps to hone in on what’s working vs not working when you hear it from multiple voices. Also, something I still need to work on—mixing it up. Sometimes I work a full day on an illustration and get nowhere. But if I pause and do something different (study a class, read a book, do some writing), THEN come back to the piece, it’s easier to focus and see where it needs to go. Google the Pomodoro technique. It’s fascinating what a break can do.
Kaitlyn: I LOVE that you shared advice that you still need to take as well. We all have areas we can work on, and I appreciate that you’re willing to share them, and I agree; it can be incredibly helpful to have more than one critique group, and great to vary it. I’m in some groups with illustrators and/or author-illustrators and each person’s insight is so helpful. Can you share a bit about the t projects you’re working on now?
Heather: I’m currently redoing a dummy that I would like to submit as an author/illustrator. Also, I’m working on some new portfolio pieces while taking a digital watercolor course.
Kaitlyn: Heather is one to watch, my friends, and I can’t wait to see them! 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?
Heather: Well, I’m super shy, but sharing an adventure sounds like the perfect icebreaker! I’d love to go on a nature walk while discussing philosophies…and maybe stop by a coffeeshop afterwards to do some sketching.
Kaitlyn: That sounds amazing. I’d love to be a fly on the wall, seeing you and your favorite illustrator sketching side-by-side–swoon! Thanks so much again for joining us and sharing such wonderful insight today!
Heather: It’s been an absolute pleasure! Thank you for inviting me 😊
Links to buy
Heather Bell whole-heartedly believes that hidden within our everyday lives is a secret realm glimpsed through books, music, and children’s laughter. Holding a BFA in Painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, she is a member of SCBWI, a participant in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, a Children’s Book Academy graduate, and a mommy. When not illustrating and writing, she searches out story ideas as an undercover school bus driver. Heather Bell is an author/illustrator represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez.
Kaitlyn review of Why Is Mommy Crying?
Why is Mommy Crying? is such a beautiful and loving way to help kids understand the loss of a miscarriage. It’s so important for kids to understand but so hard to explain, this book with its beautiful art and loving family relationship will really help in this difficult situation as well as can be a great book to talk about loss and empathy in general.
Do you want to win a winner’s choice: signed copy of Why is Mommy Crying? OR a manuscript critique (under 800 words)?
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 Why is Mommy Crying? to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of Why is Mommy Crying?
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for Why is Mommy Crying? at your library
- If you’ve read the book, share 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 those who are waiting for the Spring Fling Kidlit announcement…we’re getting close! You all have made it so difficult to narrow down for the top 20, but watch our blogs and Twitter accounts for the annoucement to come soon!