Ask the Author: Aimee Andren
With her first book (a two-in-one delight) in print and her next one well on its way, local children’s author, Aimee Andren, took us on a journey from how she got the ball rolling, to her sources of inspiration, and some words of wisdom for those out there dreaming this same dream.
Q: What set you on this path of writing children’s books?
A: Writing books with kids in mind is just a lot of fun, and there are so many avenues you can take. Funny, educational, emotional, etc. I have enjoyed writing articles for years but have recently decided to focus on books for children.
Aside from my own children inspiring me, I just love the idea of tapping into the things kids find silly, and the things parents can get so worked up over, which in hindsight are often really funny.
Q: How did you get from the dreaming/imagining phase to an illustrated and printed book?
A: Writing is something I think many people are talented at, and a lot of us love it, but the illustrating and publishing part definitely had a learning curve for me. I had some hits and misses with illustrators, but eventually found one I loved, who illustrated my first two books beautifully. Since I had very specific ideas in mind, I chose to hire my own illustrator and publisher, but there is the option of searching for an agent to find a publishing company for your picture book, in which case they will choose the type of illustrations they want. The upside is it less expensive upfront for you. There is great information out there, and the ability to sell your own books through Amazon, B&N, etc., has never been easier, so if you have an interest in writing, there's really no reason not to go for it.
Q: What’s your background?
A: Throughout my twenties and most of my thirties I worked as a social worker, specializing in adolescents. My background includes being a counselor in shelters for women and children in domestic violence situations and shelters for adolescents whose behavior and/or family situation kept them from living at home, [an] educator for high school girls who either were parents or about to become a parent, and as a client advocate at an adoption agency. I remember being a little nervous about working with these behaviorally challenged adolescents at first, but found that offering them respect, kindness, attention, and positive reinforcement seemed to be a magic formula in helping them understand their potential and self-worth. And that’s a big part of what I hope my Moon Stars Sun book does for the important kids in our lives... help a bit to instill in them how valuable they are.
Q: What was your inspiration for these books? Are the dolphin and seahorse symbols for people in your life?
A: My first published book, More Than the Moon, the Stars and the Sun / More than the Land, the Sea and the Air, was written with my now grown kids in mind. I think children’s book authors often start at home. Our kids are a great inspiration. As they were growing up, I would tell my daughter I love her more than the moon, the stars and the sun, and my son more than the
land, the sea and the air, but I never explained how much that was. So, it had been in the back of my mind for a long time to write down for them just exactly what that means. I liked the idea that each was unique, vast, and equally important. I chose the Seahorse and Dolphin characters because I think most kids are intrigued by sea creatures, and because I wanted to accentuate the importance of love, regardless of color, size or even species.
Q: What’s next?
A: My next book, which is on the verge of being published as we speak, is a silly ABC book which is designed to be educational and repetitive enough for little ones to enjoy and learn some basic letter recognition and reading skills. Each letter represents an animal kid who decides to grow up to be something outrageous (like Arnold the Alligator becomes an astronaut, despite his mom discouraging him because he's too big to wear a space suit :-). The third one is still in the editing process, and it is a much sillier, over the top rhyming book about the terrible things that can happen if you don't mind your mom and dad, called "Mom and Dad are Always Right.”
Q: What was/is your favorite children’s book? (Besides your own!)
A: Boy, I’m not sure I can name just one children’s book I love. I adore Dr. Seuss of course, who doesn’t? The Giver, which my kids loved and is more for a little older age range, was poignant and sticks with me. We also read a lot of Shel Silverstein.
Right now, I am reading a variety of books, but my favorite picture book has to be The Wonky Donkey.
Q: What advice would you offer to someone who is still in the dreaming phase?
A: I am a big believer in the idea that regret doesn’t come from failing, but from not trying. So, if writing is something that doesn’t seem to leave the back of your mind, or maybe you've even started on a great story, I would highly encourage you to take some time, every day if possible, and make yourself sit down and work on your writing. If you’re having a day that is just not inspiring, spend that time on research. Subscribe to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for some great tips and information, or “friend” others in the business who can encourage and assist you. Just do it. At the very least, you will have accomplished something your kids will treasure.