Jena Benton - Writer and Illustrator

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Blog: Of Tea and Mermaids

Simply 7 interview with Miranda Paul

Posted by Jena Benton on August 15, 2016 at 11:10 PM

Today's author is the amazing Miranda Paul!  She is a picture book author who writes both nonfiction and fiction.  Her three nonfiction books have already won her a lot of awards (such poetic writing!), and this summer she has two fiction picture books coming out.  She is a former educator (always a soft spot for me as a teacher) and the current Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™.  You can learn more about her at her website here: http://mirandapaul.com/  Her Twitter handle is @Miranda_Paul and her facebook page is Facebook.com/AuthorMirandaPaul


She joins us today to discuss her latest book, "10 Little Ninjas" (illustrated by Nate Wragg), that was just released last week.  It's a clever new twist on the "10 Little Monkeys" story!


Me: You have been on a roll! Two picture books out this summer, another one due out next year and your picture books published last year have gained a lot of recognition and acclaim. What is it that draws you to writing picture books?


Miranda: They’re fun! They’re rhythmic! They allow me to explore while writing. Then I get to inspire and entertain others once they’re out in the world. Each word matters in picture books, because there are fewer of them. I love that each tiny word is important; it’s sort of like children in our world.


Me: I understand you’re married to a writer too. How does that work? Do you share ideas? Critique each other’s work? Or do you work alone so as not to affect the other person’s work?


Miranda: Baptiste and I definitely bounce things off each other, and critique each other’s work when it’s ready and if we think we’ll be each others’ best critiquer. Most of the time, we work independently on projects (even when we’re collaborating), because our schedules are opposite—but we make appointments to work together when we need to, like for an upcoming nonfiction project we’re really excited to announce soon. 


Me: “10 Little Ninjas” is a very cute concept. Were you originally thinking all of the kids were in one family (as is traditional with the 10 Little Monkeys story), or were you imagining a slumber party? Where did your idea start, and where did the illustrator pick up?


Miranda: I was definitely imagining one family with 10 kids, who sneak out of their beds (and creep closer and closer to Dad’s room). My husband is the baby of 10, and my grandma had seven babies and took care of 14 foster babies. You should see what our family reunions look like! What the illustrator added was who the sensei was—Mom! It makes the story complete, and I’m thrilled to see the diverse family, because families in reality are much more diverse than they’ve historically been depicted in picture books.


Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?


Miranda: How many stanzas I would delete—completely—or rewrite, how many drafts there’d be, how many rejections I’d get. After all, it’s just a rewrite of “10 Little Monkeys” right? Wrong! I love how my editor helped me shape it so that it revs up in the beginning, and winds down to a sleepy end. Even concept books have plots and layers.


I was also surprised by how many ninja stories have been published since I wrote this one all those years ago. I don’t write to trends, and panicked about a year ago, worrying it’d never find a place in the market (apparently the sales and marketing department also had this conversation). Then, to my surprise, Amazon named it a Best Book of the Month (August 2016) and it became the #1 New Release in Children’s Counting Books.


Me: I know that (much like me) in the past you have been a teacher. What did your writing process look like while you were working an all-consuming job like teaching? What does it look like now?


Miranda: It looked pretty frantic and manic then, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning or during breaks. Hmmm...still looks pretty frantic and manic now. Guess the biggest difference is that I do tend to get a little more sleep now...but that could also be because my kids aren’t toddlers anymore.


Me: Any advice for other picture book writers?


Miranda: Thank a librarian or teacher today. Your job (or dream job) wouldn’t exist without them. Remember that they are champions and heroes of literacy.


Me: You have mentioned that you like to travel and have been to many different countries. Dare I ask, where was your favorite place to visit? And where is your favorite place to live? Is there some place you haven’t been yet that you would love to go see?


Miranda: My family and I love hanging out at La Tille, a UNESCO Heritage site in St. Lucia. Sometimes we’re the only ones there. It’s like the rainforest is ours, and we swim at its base.


I feel like I could live anywhere—but Wisconsin is home.


As for places I’ve never been, I want to experience the Okavango Delta in Botswana.


Thank you Miranda for your insight!  I'm glad to know that those "avoid the trend" panic attacks happen to successfully published authors as well, and that they might not mean anything anyway!  I think that just brings it all back to the adage of writing the story that you have to tell, that is true to you.  Your voice will tell it in a unique way that only you can write, just as you did here.  "10 Little Ninjas" is a wonderful rewrite, but it definitely has that Miranda Paul spin on it that only you could have written.  I'm glad you perservered through all the editing (& rejections)!


Check out "10 Little Ninjas" today you guys.  It's bound to become a read aloud classic that will be republished for many years to come.  She also has four other picture books already published and two more to be released next year!  There are many exciting reads to look forward to from this gal.  


Also Available:

Trainbots – illus. Shane McG

One Plastic Bag – illus. Elizabeth Zunon

Water is Water – illus. Jason Chin

Whose Hands Are These? – illus. Luciana Navarro Powell


Coming in 2017

Blobfish Throws a Party – illus. Maggie Caton

Are We Pears Yet? – illus. Carin Berger

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