Interview with Author Natasha Ferrill
I was born and raised in small town in Ontario,Canada called Deep River. Growing up in such a small town and as an only child allowed me a lot of time to work on my creative ideas and projects. I was a writer from the very beginning. I begged my mom to teach me how to read just after I had turned three years old, and she did. She taught me using “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. And since then, I’ve been writing and haven’t looked back! In elementary school I excelled in English and Creative Writing classes. I can still remember being given a short story assignment in grade five, that was to be around two or three pages in length. I came to class the next day with a thirty page murder mystery manuscript…needless to say my teachers all knew what my passion was!
People often ask me if growing up as an only child was ever lonely and my reply is ‘you’re never lonely when you have an active imagination!’ When I wasn’t playing with my friends, I would spend hours by myself, developing characters and imaginary worlds and writing it all down into stories. Once I had finished high school, I moved toOttawaOntario, the capital city ofCanada, where I attended and graduated, with a degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Criminology and Criminal Justice with a concentration in Psychology. Although my true passion has always been writing, I wanted to secure an education in something other than the arts so that I could start a career, while writing on the side. After working in various different project management positions, I accepted a job as a research assistant for a health centre and am currently doing that full-time, while writing in my spare time! I live with my cat, Zoe – who is a bit of a princess. In my spare time I love reading and writing, watching movies and my favorite TV shows and spending time with friends and family. http://www.thelemonman.com
Interview with Natasha Ferrill author of The Lemonman: A Picnic, A Toad and Swampwater Road.
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read?
The last picture book I read was “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. It’s a beautiful story that would be a perfect addition to any picture book collection. The last adult book I read was “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. I kept hearing so much about this book, so I wanted to have a look for myself. There are a lot of great tips on maintaining a positive outlook on life and bringing happiness to others and most importantly yourself.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
I wrote all the time as a child, probably more than I do now actually! I have many early memories of writing, both at school and in my spare time at home – and my parents kept all of my work, so that definitely helps to keep the memories alive. One of the first stories I wrote when I was around six or seven years old was called “The Littlest Star that couldn’t twinkle” and it was all about a little star who felt left out and alone because he couldn’t twinkle like all of the other stars, who were constantly making fun of him for his lack of twinkle. In the end, he grew up to be a beautiful shooting star, a feat that no one else in his galaxy had ever reached. I can remember writing a lot of poetry as a child too, from the influence of my mom who was an avid poetry reader and writer as a teenager. That’s probably where my love for rhyme stemmed from. Also, my mom taught me how to read at the age of three using “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, so I’m sure that has something to do with my rhyming love as well!
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
Writing always came naturally to me and I never had to be pushed or encouraged – it was just one of those things that I loved to do and everyone in my life knew that writing was my passion. In elementary school I excelled in English and Creative Writing classes and I was always eager to get a new writing assignment…while my classmates groaned at the thought of having to write something, yet again! I can still remember being given a short story assignment in grade five, that was to be around two or three pages in length. I came to class the next day with a thirty page murder mystery manuscript titled “It was Friday after School”…needless to say my teachers all knew what my passion was!
What inspired you to write The Lemonman picture book series and how did you come up with each character?
One night when I was three years old, I had a dream about The Lemonman, a character that entered my mind while I was sound asleep in dream-land. He was sitting at a dining room table having Christmas dinner with a worm who was wearing a top hat, and the idea has been stuck in my head ever since! The day after that dream I took a scrap piece of paper from an old agenda book and some markers, and I drew the first illustration of The Lemonman, that was back in 1983! At the time, for whatever reason, he was only a lemon wedge – he has since evolved into a full lemon. I worked on creating the idea and writing The Lemonman stories from the time I was a little girl, but something just never seemed quite right. Through the years, the stories evolved and the characters developed and changed a million times. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I finally came up with the entire idea for The Lemonman series – the
beginning characters, the town ofApplenookand the decision to write entirely in rhyme. The ideas for other characters in the series are continuously popping up in my head and stem mostly from people I know in my life and outlandish personality traits that I’ve seen in others. Give me a person and I can turn them into a fruit, vegetable or garden creature in a snap! The Lemonman circa 1983
If you were to choose a character from your book, which one would you be?
I would have to say Mr. Lemonman, only because he is constantly learning about life and continually striving to be a better ‘lemon’ to his friends…but mostly because he has a special place in my three year old heart.
Are you working on a new book?
Yes, I have the second story in The Lemonman picture book series already written and illustrations are scheduled to begin this fall. The second book, A Party, Some Rain andWiggleworm Lane, takes The Lemonman on an adventure with Wormington the Third, and the worm residents of Applenook. In this story, the worms become quite a nuisance and cause rainy-day chaos in the town ofApplenook! “And never trust a worm, my friend; even if he is quite nice, for a worm request will always come with an unexpected price.”
What was your favorite children’s book?
My favorite type of book has always been children’s books, both picture and chapter. It was something about the way they made me feel as I read through each page – the magical stories, the colorful pictures, the interesting lives of the characters, and the way those simple words on a page of paper could take me away to another world. Some of my favorites included “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, the Little Miss and Mr. books by Roger Hargreaves and of course anything by the wonderfully talented Dr. Seuss. If I had to choose a favorite, however, it would definitely be “Winnie-the- Pooh” by A.A. Milne.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
For me, the most difficult and challenging part of writing is constantly writing in rhyme while maintaining a good story at the same time. I put a lot of work into each story that I craft. In all honestly, most take months and years to perfect and especially because I write in rhyme, I need to re-assess hundreds of times before I feel comfortable with the words on the page. Every single word on the page needs to have a purpose – it needs to be there to enhance the story and not just as a fill-in for rhyme beats (syllables) or rhyme words.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I work full-time as a research assistant in youth research at a mental health centre. It’s a fulfilling job and I enjoy it very much. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends, and my cat Zoe who makes me laugh every day with her dog-like qualities.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I suffer from writer’s block quite a bit, actually. As I mentioned earlier, the stories that I write take months and years to perfect, and because everything is written in rhyme, writer’s block is inevitable and a very common occurrence for me!
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
The growing concern with literacy skills inNorth Americawarrants the need for earlier reading among children, along with early exposure to books and reading activities within the family home. According to the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, approximately one-fifth of all children four or five years of age are showing delays in vocabulary development, and by age eight more than one in every three children fail to meet the provincial standards for reading and writing. High quality picture books need to focus not only on bright and colorful illustrations and fun and entertaining stories, but also on the introduction of challenging words for children. Many existing picture books use simplistic vocabulary that children can easily identify, but with the recent push from parents toward chapter books as opposed to picture books, it is apparent that
the picture book world needs some improvement. The Lemonman series is filled with challenging vocabulary and sophisticated concepts that will inevitably stir up questions for the young reader. The following line from A Picnic, a Toad andSwampwater Roadincludes the words undoubtedly and astray, as an example of stimulating vocabulary and a sophisticated concept: “It’s been a pleasure,” Cunningham said, as he wobbled on his merry little way, completely unaware that the directions he was given would undoubtedly lead him astray. Additional features in the series include lessons on time, months, seasons and weather. The time of the year (month and season), the time of the day and the type of weather are noted in every story in the series, to help children learn more about these concepts. An example of the month and weather: “It was a bird chirping, flower blooming, sunny sort of day, Smack dab in the middle of the lovely month of May.” And an example of the use of time: “Professor Celery and Miss Strawberry agreed to join the fun, ‘We’ll meet atCherryBlossomParkat a quarter after one!’” Aside from the educational value and lessons learned, my hope is that someday I can have multiple books published in The Lemonman series, and kids around the world can grow up with these characters in their lives, just as I did with so many classic children’s book characters throughout my childhood. Children need books for so many reasons – not just for fun and learning, but also for a sense of stability in their lives, for comfort, and for the ability to escape into an unknown and magical world where a white rabbit runs late, a boy and his bear play in the forest and a lovable lemon learns about life.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?
I would love to dine with the late Beatrix Potter, mostly because I find her determination and willingness to succeed as a woman during her time so intriguing and commendable. Also on my list would be the late A.A. Milne. To me, the simple vocabulary, timeless storyline and enchanting characters in “Winnie-the-Pooh” are complete and utter perfection and it is my belief that A.A. Milne was nothing less than a genius. A third dinner guest would have to be the late Lewis Carroll, mostly because I’ve always been curious as to where all of his wacky ideas derived from and how one person can create an entire land full of such bizarre creatures! And finally on my list of dinner guests would be the ever-fascinating late Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). His work is timeless and classic and I cannot imagine a childhood without his wondrous stories tucked inside those nonsense rhymes. My apologies for all of my dinner guests being ghosts – it’s the charm of their words that inspire me most!
What author inspires you most and why?
J.K. Rowling is an author who inspires me greatly, mostly because of her rags to riches story. It’s one of those stories of hope, for anyone who might be going through hard times in life such as a divorce, being job-less or suffering from depression, that anything is possible if you have that drive and determination: “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – J. K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008.”
What disciplines do you impost on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I have to treat book promotion and writing as a ‘real’ job in the sense that I need to schedule time in my agenda to do certain things. I’m an extremely organized person, so scheduling a time in for book promotion, writing or networking is like second nature to me and because it’s my passion, I feel like I could spend hours each day working toward my goals!
What advice would you give to parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
I would say to read reviews on the book in question, and also as a parent to read the book first yourself before giving it to your child (especially if it’s a picture book that you’ll have to read to them over and over again)! You want to make sure it’s something age appropriate for your child, something that has a teaching value, something that is fun for the child and something that you, as a parent, can also enjoy.
What advice would you give to new writers?
The one thing I’ve learned from this process of writing is to keep at it and to keep dreaming. As children, our imaginations run free, but as adults, sometimes we allow our lives and the people around us to stifle our dreams and our wild imaginations. Be true to your inner child and never forget that little boy or girl who once dreamed that anything was possible. I am a firm believer that anything is truly possible in life, if you just believe in yourself and your ideas and if you have the strength and motivation to keep working until you reach your goal.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
My website is launching this August http://www.thelemonman.com, so be sure to stop by and have a look around! I also have a Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/lemonman.picture.books, so be sure to come by and LIKE the page to become a fan and get the latest information on The Lemonman picture book series including reviews, interviews, where the books are sold and sneak peaks into the next book! My book will be available for purchase on my website, on Amazon and in local area bookstores.
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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