Ann Bevans is the author, with Matthew Ethan Gray, of the Bean in the Garden children's book series. She also has written the marketing book Selling with Stories. A marketer, graphic designer, and web developer, she lives in Maryland.
Q: How did you and Matthew Ethan Gray come up with the idea for your Bean in the Garden series?
A: We were kicking around ideas one day and Matt said, "I have an idea that won't leave me alone. It's about a bean who's walking across a garden." Then he proceeded to describe what was (more or less) the plot of our first book, Bean Takes a Walk.
The idea grew out of a bedtime story Matt told his kids. It resonated with me because my husband and I also told our son (now 10) bedtime stories about beans! It was a moment of synchronicity that set Matt and I on the path toward creating Bean in the Garden.
Q: What age group do you think would especially enjoy the books, and what do you hope young readers take away from the stories?
A: The books are designed for preschool and primary grades, ages 3-7. Our aim with Bean in the Garden is to help kids learn to be brave and kind in everyday life, but we approach this in a lighthearted way.
So far, kids have really responded to our characters and seem to enjoy the books. As a side note, we've also enjoyed hearing that kids are learning the names of new veggies!
Q: How do the two of you collaborate on the books?
A: Matt lives in Australia and I live in the U.S., so there's definitely some back and forth. We usually start by brainstorming in a Google Hangout. I create the first draft, then we revise it together.
When it's in pretty good shape, Matt creates the illustrations and puts everything in an InDesign document. Then we usually do another round of revisions and lots of editing before we publish.
In the final stages, it's important to compare the text to the illustrations to make sure they agree. Sometimes we need to adjust the illustrations to match the text, and sometimes it's the other way around!
It's great fun creating books with Matt. We really enjoy the process.
Q: Bean in the Garden is now on YouTube--how do the videos coordinate with the books?
A: YouTube has really stretched our muscles, and we love it! Our first few videos have been read-alouds, which are lightly animated versions of the books.
We're also working on some alphabet videos and other educational content for young viewers. Parents can subscribe to our channel by visiting here.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm really excited about book 6! In this story, Bean and Bella are on a mission to discover if the real Amazing Pickle has come to the Garden! We are also focused on expanding our presence on YouTube and squeezing in a few more school visits before the end of the year.
Outside of the Garden, I always have quite a few balls in the air. Currently, I'm revising my young adult science fiction novel, Ghost, and I'm doing research for a middle grade novel as well!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Parents and teachers may want to check out our school visits program. I enjoy chatting with kids in all grade levels, from preschool through high school. (Shh. Don't tell anyone, but I think the high schoolers enjoy Bean more than anyone!) I love reading the books and sharing information about the writing process.
Also, kids should check out our games center for some fun online games, including memory, character puzzles and a coloring app.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb