Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Q&A with children's author Pamela Mayer

Pamela Mayer is the author most recently of Don't Sneeze at the Wedding. Her other books include The Grandma Cure and The Scariest Monster in the Whole Wide World. She is a native of San Francisco, California.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Don't Sneeze at the Wedding?

A: I was contacted by the PJ Library and asked if I had considered writing a Jewish themed children's book. The book selection committee had read my book The Grandma Cure (Dutton 2005) and thought there was something "Jewish" about it.

I sat down and brainstormed ideas. I knew I wanted to write something contemporary, and that I wanted it to be about a joyful event in Jewish life.

My husband is a professional photographer and I have assisted him at weddings. All of the pre-wedding busyness is so interesting. Also, our daughter was recently engaged, so I had wedding ceremonies on my mind too.

Q: You have worked with different illustrators for your books. How has the process worked for you to collaborate with them?

A: Actually, the author of a children's picture book has no contact with the illustrator at all. The selection is made by the editor and art director at the publishing company, in this case, Kar-Ben.

A children's picture book story is told through both text and illustration. The author must write in way that also allows space for the illustrator's imagination and creativity.

Martha Aviles did a wonderful job with the illustrations for Don't Sneeze At the Wedding. I'd be very pleased to meet her someday!

Q: Do you have a particular age group for whom you prefer writing?

A: I like to write for children aged 10 and under. I really enjoy children, and their enthusiasm for the world. I also like to read the books written for children this age!

In my opinion, a children's book writer needs to retain a little of the spirit of children and childhood. I still remember what it felt like to be that age. I've also published stories and articles for this age group in children's magazines.

Q: Why did you decide to write for kids? 

A: I wanted to write for children primarily because I loved to read so much as a child. The West Portal Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was just down the hill from my elementary school and I would visit it several times a week.

Books that I had read, sitting on the shelves, seemed to greet me like old friends. I think I was about nine years old when I decided that being one of the people who created those marvelous stories was the life for me!

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I have a full slate of children's projects that I am working on right now. Two new picture books, as well as a picture book biography about an American singing songwriting icon. I also have a children's middle grade novel project, and an idea for an adult mystery trilogy. It may be quite a while until I get to that last one, though!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. This interview was conducted in conjunction with The Lessans Family Annual Book Festival at The JCC of Greater Washington. Pamela Mayer will be speaking at te festival on Sunday, November 10, at 3:30pm.

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