Ms. Hood will appear at the Fairfield University Bookstore this Saturday afternoon, May 10th, to read her new children’s book, Rooting for You (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99). (See event details below.) She is the author of more than 200 licensed books for young readers including board books, concept books, interactive books, nonfiction, and beginning readers and has also written for parents and early childhood educators in the New York Times, Nick's ParentsConnect, Sesame Street Parent's Guide, Working Mother, among others. Ms. Hood makes her home in Connecticut.
Rooting for You was published in March and has received a warm critical response. The New York Times Book Review praised, “Many a reader will sympathize with this book’s hero, a seed scared to emerge from the dark safety of his garden bed … ‘Rooting for You’ is a cheerful alternative to Dr. Seuss’s ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ for anybody ready to graduate from one stage of life to another. No fear: There’s sunshine ahead.” Further, Kirkus noted, “Hood's rhyming text is charming … As sweet and benign as a summer daisy.”
From the publisher:
It's time for one little seed to come out of his shell. But he's afraid. It's a big world out there. There may be dangers! (Like monsters!) There are definitely obstacles. (Like rocks!) And while there's a good deal of uncertainty, he discovers that he has friends to help guide him on his way and root for him to have his day in the sun.
Now, Susan Hood invites readers to journey beneath the surface with her …
1) What inspired you to write ROOTING FOR YOU – and how does the book’s presentation mirror its message?
I had recently left a full-time job to pursue a dream of becoming a full-time author. I was thinking about growth, change and new experiences and realized that kids go through new experiences all the time—new house, new school, new baby. These changes can be scary, but to paraphrase the Beatles, we get by with a little help from our family and friends. That’s the idea behind ROOTING FOR YOU, the story of a little seed who’s afraid to sprout. My editor had the brilliant idea to include many fold-up and fold-out pages, culminating in a three-foot tall burst that drives the seed’s growth and celebrates its day in the sun.
2) Tell us about the collaborative process with your illustrators. How can their imagery enhance your stories?
Most people think that picture book authors and illustrators sit down together and collaborate closely, when in reality, they may never meet! The most effective picture books use very few, evocative words that inspire the illustrator to expand on the ideas. Ideally, the illustrator adds 50 percent of the story. So the author’s job is to create half a book. That’s one reason picture books are so difficult to write!
3) People tend to underestimate the difficulty of writing for children. What are the unique challenges that this process can pose – and how might authorial responsibility differ, given the impressionable minds of your audience?
These days most picture books are under 500 words and as with poetry, every word counts. In those 500 words, you have the same responsibility as a novelist to deliver great characters, a fresh point of view, a satisfying plot, rich language, and so on. Picture books must be developmentally appropriate for kids AND appeal to parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians. And they must stand up under repeated (maybe nightly!) readings.
4) You got your start at Scholastic. How did that experience influence your career path – and what advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for a foot in the door?
My first job was read and review thousands of picture books for consideration in Scholastic’s K-1 book club—a fabulous foundation for my future career. That’s essential advice for aspiring writers: read, read, read! Read the classics, the award-winners, and the little-known titles your librarian loves. Stay up-to-date on the newest books to see how the genre has changed over the years. Read aloud to kids and see what they respond to.
Other tips? Join a writers’ group and read your manuscripts aloud to fellow authors. Finally, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (scbwi.org) for great advice and networking possibilities.
5) Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?
Next up? TICKLY TOES, an oversized baby board book, debuts August 1, followed by MISSION: NEW BABY launching from Random House next spring!
With thanks to Susan Hood for her generosity of time and thought and to Nancy Quinn, Special Events Coordinator at the Fairfield University Bookstore, for helping to facilitate this interview.
Ms. Hood will appear at the Fairfield University Bookstore (2nd floor) on Saturday, May 10th, at 4 PM, to read Rooting for You; copies will be available for purchase/signing. Additionally, participants will be able to decorate a flower pot and plant seeds. Call 203-255-7756 X501 to reserve a spot. Ages 2+. Address: 1499 Post Rd.