Maggie Mitchell, author of The Big Stink! and most recently, Kacey the Paper Cat, knows a few things about books. She’s not only an author, but also began her own publishing company, Bushbaby Press, so that she could further share the love of reading with kids!
Q: Can you tell us the story about how Kacey came to be?
I know the real Kacey the Paper Cat very well because he lives at my house! Kacey is one-of-a-kind and loves his paper products. I thought he’d be a great character for a story! In this case, my inspiration was a furry friend who I often find sleeping by my feet at night!
Q: Where did you grow up and what brought you to the Philadelphia area?
I grew up in Oxford, PA and graduated from Oxford Area High School in 2000, along with Chris Vendrick, my illustrator! Aside from the four years I spent at Elizabethtown College, I’ve always lived in Chester County. I love Pennsylvania because we experience four very distinct seasons and there are so many wonderful things to see and do in our state. West Chester, where I live now with my family, is about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. My favorite part of living in this area is the vast array of places to visit, eat, and shop, and I also appreciate the historical importance this area had on so many major events in US history. We could be at the beach, in the mountains, or in our Nation’s capitol in a matter of just a couple of hours! Chester County is a great central location.
Q: Do you have kids – and do they like to write?
I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, named Evelyn. Although Evie doesn’t write yet, she is becoming very adept at drawing fountains, beans, and circles, which is a step in the right direction! Identifying and producing pictures, symbols, and icons are all building blocks of reading & writing.
Q: If you and your family had the chance to travel the U.S. in a bookmobile, which books would be with you on the shelves?
What a wonderful question! My husband, Rich, would probably want Ulysses by James Joyce (it’s a work in progress), some David Sedaris, or Bill Bryson. I would definitely like to have something that wasn’t too heady, so I could be distracted by the sights–maybe something by Sue Monk Kidd or Lorna Landvik. Crossword puzzle books would be a must-have, too. Evie would prefer some great picture books. Right now we’ve got 2 by Denise Fleming from the library that she likes a lot. She loves books with animals in them, books that rhyme, books with rhythmic and repetitive text…she’s not too selective! We read a LOT in our house and give every book a chance! I’d say the bookmobile would have 80% children’s books–and that would be perfectly fine with the adults!
Q: Do you have a favorite animal you like to write about?
Not really! I am inspired by many things. I’ve got 2 ideas going for my next book and they both include animals. I sort of get an idea about something an animal does naturally or could do in fantasy, and take it from there.
Q: You started your own publishing company. Can you share a little about that process and what it’s been like?
It has been haltingly difficult–not so much in the act of starting the company, but in starting the company and being home with Evie full time and trying to work on my own writing. The company that I started, Bushbaby Press, was recreated from the original company that published my first book The Big Stink! in 2011, called eReadia Kids. The publisher in charge of that outfit told me at the start of 2012 that he wasn’t going to continue on with eReadia Kids, and asked me if I’d like to take over. There was one very easy answer to that question, and so it began. I renamed the company Bushbaby Press, after a small (and very adorable) nocturnal animal called a Bushbaby. I do a lot of my work late, late at night, so I thought naming the company after a nocturnal creature was very apropos. I have a few authors from different parts of the world (yes, the world!) that I work with, and a few illustrators as well. I’m responsible for preparing the authors’ books for print, both in paperback and e-book versions. Every new project has lead me to more discoveries about the process and industry, and the knowledge I’ve collected along the way has just ballooned exponentially over the last 9 months. The only direction Bushbaby Press can go is up, so ballooning is good!
Q: Do you have any advice for kids who want to be writers someday?
READ. Get a library card and get at it. I know many people (myself included) who have been turned off by reading at different times in their life because they were inundated with the reading of textbooks and educational material. While it’s important to participate in school by doing required assignments, try, somehow to save some desire to read for what you are most passionate about. And, if you start reading a book that you don’t like, STOP READING THAT BOOK! Choose another one! I would say the number one thing that helps me write, is that I read a lot. Reading helps grow my vocabulary, my understanding of grammar, introduces me to other writers’ styles, and shows me what kinds of things inspire other writers.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your next project(s)?
I can definitely tell you that it will involve animals again! Now, whether those animals will be extinct or currently living, is still up in the air I think I might get some notes down about both ideas and see where they take me. I hope to be able to share my next book with all of your readers in Spring 2013!