Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to feature this author on my blog today. I have admired her for years and just adore her books, and even better, her newest book that we’re here to chat about today comes at the best time for my daughter. Without further ado, we have the absolute pleasure of chatting with Bea Birdsong today about her newest picture book (that just came out this week!) HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND, illustrated by Lucy Fleming.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Bea, thank you so much for joining us!
Bea: Thank you for inviting me, Kaitlyn! I’m so happy to be here!
Kaitlyn: My daughter and I were already head-over-heels for HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND after the first read, can you please share how you thought of this story?
Bea: Thank you so much! I’ve been lucky to have several really good friends in my life, starting with my sister. How to Spot a Best Friend is dedicated to her. I wanted to write a story that celebrates the special people in our lives, our best friends, and the ways they make us feel valued and whole. It is also a reminder that friendship is reciprocal, and while we are appreciating the wonderful friends in our lives, we need to remember to be a good friend to them, too.
Kaitlyn: That’s so beautiful and such an important lesson for our little ones to learn–and can be so hard to teach, so thank you for this amazing and fun way to teach our kids this! Speaking of kids, the voice of the main character in this story has to be one of my favorite aspects, how did you figure out this character?
Bea: How to Spot a Best Friend is, of course, about friendship, but it’s also a book about the first day of school, and so many books about starting school focus on the worries or fears associated with that event. While I believe these books are important because they show kids they aren’t alone in their feelings, I also think it’s important for kids to read books with confident characters who know what they want and are going after it. And I love when kids explain things to adults the way the main character in this story explains how to spot a best friend to her mother. Kids who are passionate about a topic and want to tell you all about it often offer keen insights adults overlook.
Kaitlyn: So well said! All feelings are valid from nervous to confident; thank you for providing such a fun character for our little to have as a role model. Speaking of wonderful role models, you’ve had the great pleasure of working with multiple editors, can you talk a bit about your editors and share some insight about what it’s like working with different editors?
Bea: What I look for in an editor is someone who loves my story as much as I do and wants to make it into the best book it can be, and I’m fortunate to have that with each of my editors. When you start working with a new editor, it can take a little bit of time to learn what to expect as far as communication style and when each part of the process will happen, but you’re also getting to know this amazing person who is as excited about picture books as you are, so it’s fun. And I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work with all my editors, too, because I’ve learned so much about writing and publishing from each of them.
I think being open to working with multiple editors is especially important for picture-book authors. We write a lot of books—at least when compared with novelists. No matter how much an editor loves your work, it is unlikely all of your stories will be a good fit for her list. Working with more than one editor gives you the best chance of being able to share your stories with the world.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing this great insight; all new relationships take a bit of navigating, but that doesn’t make the relationship any less wonderful. And your point about many different editors is so helpful for up-and-coming writers, thank you for sharing that. Another relationship that many new writers like to hear about is the agent relationship. Can you share who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Bea: My agent is Melissa Edwards of Stonesong. Melissa is the perfect agent for me because she doesn’t hold back when critiquing my stories. When we send a story out on submission, I know it has an excellent chance of being acquired because Melissa won’t send out a story that isn’t ready for publication. She is also a fierce advocate for her authors. I have a difficult time asking for things, and Melissa is right there ready to ask for me.
Kaitlyn: Melissa sounds amazing because she’s exactly what you need! Because of all your wonderful books, you have been matched up with some fantastic illustrators. Can you share a bit about your experience with illustrators on your journey?
Bea: I have been unbelievably lucky to be paired with the best illustrators. I am their biggest fan, and it’s a privilege to share a book with each one. As an author, it can be difficult to let go and place your story in someone else’s hands, but I love the art in my books and I would be thrilled to work with the same artists again.
All of the illustrators I’ve worked with have created the art independently. I’ve gotten to see the art at various stages along the way—from first concept sketches to final illustrations—and offer feedback, but that’s done through the editor. And I think that is important. Illustrators need to feel free to bring their own vision to a book without worrying that the author will be unhappy because it doesn’t match the exact images she had in mind.
Kaitlyn: I love how you’re their biggest fan, and it’s a privilege to share a book with them. That is so beautiful. And your point about the separation is so wonderful; many new writers may be nervous about that, but as Bea said, there’s a great reason for this process. Now, can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?
Bea: Yes! Here’s my best advice for picture-book authors:
1. Read current picture books. This will help you in so many ways. Soon, the rhythm of a picture book will come naturally to you. And you will get a good idea of what editors are looking for now. I critique a lot of query letters, and I have seen quite a few that use comps from ten or fifteen years ago. Even if a book is a bestseller, it doesn’t mean that’s what editors want to acquire for their current lists.
2. Having said that, write what you want to write rather than what you think will sell. Write a universal theme in a way that is specific to you.
3. Find critique partners who will give you honest, constructive feedback. And then be willing to listen to them and make changes if necessary.
4. Do not be afraid to send your stories out into the world. There are readers who need them.
Kaitlyn: Yes, yes, yes, yes! I 100% agree with all of this advice! I love seeing this all in the News section of your website where we can see how your wonderful work has earned you fantastic reviews and landed on many lists. Can you share how you feel when you add things like you did this February: “Kirkus says SAM’S FIRST WORD is “fresh, fun, and funny” in a STARRED review!”?
Bea: Thank you, Kaitlyn! I’m always amazed when I read reviews, see one of my books on a recommended books list, or receive an email from a reader who enjoys my stories. It seems WILD that there are people reading my books and then taking the time to promote them and share how they feel about them. Knowing other people connect to my words—to the way I see the world—is an immense compliment. I’m so grateful for every reader.
Kaitlyn: As one of your favorite readers, I can say, we’re so thankful for you, too! Can you share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?
Bea: My next book is BOOP!, an interactive picture book in which readers are invited to boop the snoots of all the dogs they see. This book is illustrated by Linzie Hunter and will be released by HarperCollins Children’s Books in summer 2023. Goat Is the Goat, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, will be released in fall 2023 from Nancy Paulsen Books. This book is about a goat who thinks he must be the G.O.A.T, the greatest of all time, though all evidence seems to be to the contrary.
Kaitlyn: Ha, those both sound so fun! I can’t wait to read them! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Bea: That’s a difficult choice, but I would go on an adventure. I cannot think of a better way to get to know someone than to have an adventure together.
Kaitlyn: Right?! I was just talking to an editor last week about how taking a road trip together always forms such a great bond, but you’re right, it’s ANY adventure! Count me in, and thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, and please come back and visit anytime.
Book info and links
Wonderland Bookshop: https://www.wonderlandbookshopnc.com/book/9780593179277
Do you know how to find a best friend? Find out in this wonderful celebration of kindness and friendship!
“Today, I will find a best friend!” announces a little girl to her mother as they walk to school. Her mother reminds her that it’s only the first day of school, and finding a best friend might take some time. But the girl isn’t worried, because she knows exactly how to spot a best friend.
“A friend lends you a crayon. A best friend lends you a brand-new, extra-sharp green crayon,” she explains. And so begins a whimsical exploration of what it means to be a best friend. Full of imagination and charm, this is the perfect picture book for little ones hoping to find—and be—a best friend at school.
Author Bio and links
Bea Birdsong is the author of I Will Be Fierce, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani and published by Roaring Brook Press, Sam’s First Word, illustrated by Holly Hatam and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, How to Spot a Best Friend, illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Rodale Kids/RHCB, Boop!, illustrated by Linzie Hunter and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, and Goat Is the Goat, illustrated by Kelly Murphy and published by Nancy Paulsen Books.
Bea is also a writer for the education market and a former teacher who believes in the awesome power of books to educate, entertain, and empower. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Bea is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency.
Kaitlyn’s Review of HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND
Everyone needs to read this book! This is such a fun and beautiful story that I hope everyone shares with the little ones in their lives about what it really means to be a great friend. And, this wonderful lesson is shared with a confident main character and such gorgeous illustrations that kids will want you to read it again and again.
Do you want to win a SIGNED copy of HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND? (US only please)
You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for HOW TO SPOT A BEST FRIEND at your library
- Quote retweet Kaitlyn’s tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for your wonderful support of great creators like Bea!
For our Kidlit Zombie Week friends, we’re still connecting Pledge winners and will announce Pitch winners soon–thanks so much for your patience while we read through all your wonderful pitches! And now that Zombie Week is almost over, keep your eyes peeled for more Spring Fling Kidlit analysis!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez