I’m writing this on a beautiful spring day with all the windows open. It is like writing outside on the deck. ( Where in reality the light is too bright to use this computer.) 🙂 Today I want to introduce début kidlit author Michelle Eastman who came to my attention about three months ago with her valuable program of giving books to incarcerated parents and recording them reading which then they could give their kids. I was so impressed I immediately donated four of my books for this project. Two Edmund Pickle Chin copies and two Annie’s Special Day copies.
Michelle Eastman is the author of “The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy Tale.” And I even won a copy of this book along with a bunny! *YaY!* I was so taken by her book I wanted to feature her on my blog.
Clarbojahn: Q: Michelle, what’s the elevator pitch of your new book?
Michelle Eastman: The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale is a lighthearted story about a serious topic: Being Yourself. Here is my elevator pitch:
Join the Dust Fairies on their messy nighttime adventures, and discover how one misfit fairy uses his talent to create something legendary. His story will have families looking at dust bunnies in a new light and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms.
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
The story was inspired by my son. He sees the beauty in things many of us would not even notice, or would regard as trash. Like Artie, in the story, my son collects lots of odd things he finds interesting. He proudly displays these “treasures” on his bookshelf. I often protest when he brings home objects like an old bottle cap or an oddly-shaped bit of wood. But, he can usually convince me that there is beauty in it-if I look hard enough.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenges do you set before them?
Artie has a hard time finding his place among the other Dust Fairies. He wants to be accepted, but he isn’t willing to change who he is to do that. Artie’s loneliness, and odd habit of collecting discarded debris, leads him to create something legendary. His legendary creation helps him find his own special place among the Dust Fairies.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
This is my first published book. The self-publishing process, itself, posed many challenges. That could take up an entire interview!
I find it is always a challenge to leave room for the illustrator to be an equal partner in the storytelling process. Since mine is a picture book, leaving space for the illustrations to help tell the story is vital. Thankfully, I worked with the talented Kevin Richter. Kevin was able to take my words and create a visual experience I could not have imagined. We had a wonderful working relationship, and I am excited to be collaborating with him on our second Dust Fairy book.
It’s also a challenge for me to let people discover the message of the story without overtly teaching them a moral lesson. It’s just as important, to me, to write an entertaining story that can bring smiles and giggles to readers.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
The most rewarding part of being a published author is having the opportunity to visit schools and libraries and spend time with children. Reading the book aloud to kids is my favorite thing to do.
I’ve also met amazing authors and writers online and at events. I am encouraged and inspired by them, and I cherish those connections.
Donating my book brings me great joy, so I am also excited about my new literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On. https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO/
I started the initiative to help get high-quality books to kids in need. I encourage people to recognize a need in their own community, call attention to that need, and do something to help.
For the month of March, I created a special book drive called MARCHing Books to Kids of Incarcerated Parents, to benefit the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project. Over 30 children’s authors from around the US, as well as many other generous people donated books to the project. We raised hundreds of books in one month.
The Storybook Project recruits, screens and trains volunteers to work with incarcerated parents and/or grandparents at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women (ICIW) in Mitchellville, Iowa and the Newton Correctional Release Center (CNRC) in Newton, Iowa. Once per month, volunteers work with the mother, grandmother or father. The parent/grandparent and volunteer choose a book from the Storybook library that is appropriate for the child. The parent or grandparent reads the book while the volunteer records the reading onto a digital voice recorder. The book and CD are mailed to the child.
Q: Tell us your publishing journey
I began my career as an elementary teacher in the West Des Moines School District. At Iowa Public Television, I wrote educational content for the K-12 Connections Team, serving teachers and students in two-hundred Iowa school districts. I love kids’ books, especially children’s picture books. I enjoy getting lost in the magic of the words as they flow into the illustrations. I love picture books so much, that I finally wrote my own.
I am new to indie publishing and blogging, and I am energized by both endeavors.
When I began my self-publishing journey, I didn’t know much about how publishing works, so I researched the industry for many months. I began to look for publishers and agents who accept unsolicited manuscripts. Slowly, I realized that there were not a lot of opportunities for 1st time authors. Of the few houses accepting unsolicited submissions, many were not interested in rhyming picture books. I was a bit discouraged, but I knew it was not an impossible task. I researched how to draft and send query letters. After working on the letters for a while, I asked myself if I wanted to invest my time in the query process for the next year or more, or figure out how to make this book.
I switched gears and began gathering information about self-publishing. As you may know, there is a wealth of information available. It was very time-consuming to collect and sift through the information and gather what I needed. But, I powered through and found a POD. I figured out the costs and compared it to what I’d likely be paid for a traditional publishing deal. In the end, I decided I could afford to self-publish and retain the book rights and my creative freedom. Working with the book’s illustrator, Kevin Richter, was an amazing experience.
We are currently working on the 2nd book in the Dust Fairy series. I chose the indie route for this book as well, and I am excited to travel this road again.
The second book is about a Dust Fairy girl who wants to join the fairy band. But, she is just too bold, too loud, and too much for the more delicate, proper fairy girls. In the end, Aggie discovers that she does not have to be “perfect” to find her perfect fit. Oh, and she plays the bagpipes!
Q; Where can we find you on the web?
I enjoy meeting authors and writers. Here’s where I can be found:
Michelle Eastman’s bio:
Michelle began her career as an elementary teacher in the West Des Moines School District. At Iowa Public Television, she wrote educational content for teachers and students in 200 school districts. When she’s not chasing dust bunnies, or her two cats, she likes to cuddle up with a good book and her son. Her family lives in Waukee, Iowa.
More on the book: ”
The Legend of Dust Bunnies will open your eyes to a world of dirt and dust that you never knew could be so magical and fun! Did you know that Dust Fairies come into our homes at night and spread dust, drape spider webs, and even spit crumbs into the carpet? They do! It’s true! Well, not all fairies. Artie is different. He doesn’t like messes, and he doesn’t fit in. At first, Artie is lonely and unsure of what to do, but then he takes matters into his own hands. When given lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? This story does one better, it turns DUST into DUST BUNNIES. The Legend of Dust Bunnies is the story about how and why a misfit Dust Fairy turns dust into cuddly dust bunnies and the joyful aftermath that follows. It will have families looking at dust bunnies in a new light, and may actually give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms.
Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Michelle! It has been a real pleasure to read about you and get to know you better. I love your pay it forward program and I wish you huge success with your book. So long for now, dear readers!
See you on Friday for PPBF!