Who wrote that? KIDLIT CREATORS WHO MAKE KIDS WANT TO READ An interview with Danna Smith
Who Wrote That? is a monthly column that profiles the talented authors and illustrators who are bringing children’s books to life.
uess what Danna Smith wanted to be when she grew up? If you guessed teacher, you’d be half right. It was a toss-up, she said, between teacher and mortician. “Don’t judge me!” the angelic-looking author added with a laugh. Danna sat down and talked with columnist Bitsy Kemper about her writing journey. Bitsy: First off, it’s pronounced Dan-na, not Dayna, right? Danna: Yes! Thank you for checking. My name rhymes with banana. As a child, my nickname was Danna Banana. In fact, one of my sisters has dropped my name completely and calls me Banana, which can lead to strange looks from people in public. BK: When being a mortician didn’t pan out, what made you think about writing? DS: My teacher encouraged my efforts (teachers rock!) and I knew someday I would try to become a published picture book author. Of course, I had no idea how to go about following my dreams as I had never met an author. It wasn’t until much later that I found the opportunity and guidance I had been looking for in a writing conference. I was ready to go from writing strictly for pleasure to writing for fun and publication. BK: When did you get serious about writing? DS: I submitted my first story 19 years ago, in 1999. I mailed it in (snail mail in those
By Bitsy Kemper
days) and to my surprise, the editor wrote back saying she like my manuscript. She was changing jobs and took the manuscript with her to her new publishing house. They ended up making an offer. BK: That was fast! DS: It still took a few years for Disney-Hyperion publish to A Wild Cowboy but it was my first book—and it sold without an agent, to a large publisher. These things didn’t happen to me! It was a big break that kick-started my career. BK: Sounds like you’ve had an easy path. DS: Oh my no. It’s never easy. Since then I’ve had 300 rejections and counting! BK: Holy cow! You must have thick skin. DS: When I was a child, I asked Santa for a unicycle every year, I wanted one in the worst way. Money was scarce in my family, but Santa could bring one, right? I’d awake Christmas morning with lovely gifts but no unicycle. My wish finally came true years later, but I had no idea how hard that thing would be to ride! I practiced every day, learning to jump off the seat and to my feet before crashing, letting the unicycle fall to the ground. Before long the seat was shredded where it connected with the road so many times, but I finally learned to ride. BK: How did that prepare you for a writing career? DS: I was in heaven pedaling around my neighborhood year after year. I learned that things are often harder than they appear but if I want something
badly enough, I can make it happen. If I get knocked down with a rejection letter, I pick myself up and try again. In fact, rejection makes me more determined to succeed. BK: You’ve had quite the successes too. Tell me about some of your awards. DS: The Hawk of the Castle received starred reviews, became a Junior Library Guild Selection, and was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Books of 2018. My lyrical story, Arctic White, about a girl, her grandfather and the Northern Lights became a Crystal Kite Award finalist at SCBWI, the major children’s book writer and illustrator organization. BK: That must make you feel good. DS: I love it when my books receive awards – who doesn’t like to have their work acknowledged with excellence by top children’s book reviewers and committees? For me, however, creating books to share with children is the reward. The awards are a bonus. Awards allow my books the opportunity to be seen by more children in more places around the world, and that is my ultimate goal!
BK: I think readers should have the ultimate goal to pick up some of your books! Looks like you have a whole bunch coming out this year. Best to you, Danna. Bitsy Kemper is author of 16 children’s books and 5 e-books. You may have seen Bitsy on CNN, heard her on national radio, noticed her quoted
in a range of places from Parenting magazine to Writing Children’s Books for Dummies, or seen her work in countless newspapers, radio and TV stations across the U.S of A. Busy with three kids (four if you count her husband), she happily finds time to present at schools and writer conferences from CA to NY. Find out more at www.BitsyKemper.com
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT AUTHOR DANNA SMITH
Danna Smith is an award-winning author living in Northern CA with her husband and two grown children where she is hard at work on her next book. Website: www.dannasmithbooks.com Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/authordannasmith/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannasmith8 Picture Book Review Blog: https://picturebookplaylist.com/blog/ Favorite saying (found on tumblr): “I write because creating something that didn’t exist before is as close to magic as I’ll ever get.”
SEE DANNA SMITH June 2nd 11-1:30AM Barnes & Noble in Folsom June 28th 10AM Rio Linda Library in Rio Linda
RECENT BOOKS BY DANNA SMITH Springtime Babies (A Little Golden Book) Illustrated by Takako Fisher, Penguin Random House, 2018 The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, Candlewick Press, 2017 Arctic White Illustrated by Lee White, Henry Holt & Co., 2016 Swallow the Leader Illustrated by Kevin Sherry, Clarion Books, 2016 Mother Goose’s Pajama Party Illustrated by Virginia Allyn, Doubleday Books, 2015 Coming soon: Three more Little Golden Books will release later in 2018, Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby, The Colors of Summer, and The Colors of Winter.
CALIFORNIA KIDS! Family Fun Guide • JUNE 2018