Maria Gianferrari interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Mar 4, 2017 6:03:52 PM

Maria Gianferrari interview with David Alan Binder

Her bio from Amazon: She writes both fiction and nonfiction picture books, usually while my faithful companion, Becca, snores at my feet. I love nature and animals, especially dogs!

Most of my nonfiction picture books are about creatures in the natural world. I'm also fascinated by the subject of urban ecology, and the different ways in which wild animals have adapted to life and co-existence with humans.

Most of my fiction picture books contain dogs as main characters, and some cats too! I am most intrigued by the human-animal bond, so this is a topic that I like to explore in my fiction.

I am represented by the amazing Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

My first picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by talented Thyra Heder, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015. A second Penny & Jelly picture book was released in June 2016.

· Main website:

· Penny & Jelly website:

· Instagram:

· Facebook:

· Goodreads:

· Amazon:

1. How do you pronounce your name?

My name is Italian in origin, no surprise there. The first four letters of my surname “Gian” are pronounced like the name “John,” then add in the sports car “ferrari” (which I don’t own). Together it’s “John-ferrari.”

2. Where are you currently living?

In Leesburg, Virginia.

3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience so far?

That writing = re-writing, and re-envisioning through many, many drafts, and that takes pluck, persistence and patience.

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

It’s not really a quirk per se, but virtually all of my books, both published as well as works-in-progress, have dogs or some other kind of creature as characters.

5. Tell us your insights on self-publishing or using a publisher?

I have no experience with self-publishing since I decided to take the traditional route, and that has worked well for me.

a. Who is your publisher and in what city are they?

These are my current publishers:

· Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, MA)

· Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan (New York, NY)

· Aladdin Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster (New York, NY)

· Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA)

· GP Putnam’s Sons (New York, NY)

· Little Bee (New York, NY)

6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

As a reader and author, I prefer “real” books—I love the feel, the “whoosh” sound of a page turning. For picture books, print books are definitely a must. It is by far the best way to showcase the art.

7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

· For those writing children’s literature, first and foremost join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators):

There you will find a multitude of resources on all kinds of subjects.

· Join an SCBWI-affiliated critique group in your area, or online, for feedback

· If you’re on Facebook, join Kidlit 411 for information on craft, editors and agents and all things kidlit

· Attend SCBWI regional conferences to meet your fellow writers/illustrators; sign up for craft-based workshops; network with agents, editors, art directors and other professionals in the field

· Don’t give up. Persistence and perseverance is key. Getting published is more of a marathon than a sprint, full of ups and downs. Remember to pace yourself (that’s where a good critique group can help too!)

8. How would you suggest acquiring an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?

Before querying any agent, be sure that your work is in top form. Most importantly, do your research. I would advise against mass submissions to multiple agents. Find agents that represent books similar in genre or tone to your own. Look for online interviews to see what kinds of books they favor. Go to conferences and workshops where you can get critiques or feedback from agents to hear what kinds of books/stories they’re looking for. Select your top choices, and then query a select few at a time.

9. Do you have any suggestions or help for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

This goes for writers new and old. As the saying goes, there is no substitute for hard work. Read as much as you can in the genre you want to write in; write; join a critique group to improve your craft and for camaraderie. Take classes or workshops to improve your craft.

Reading craft-oriented books can also be quite helpful. Some of my favorites are Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.

Study books as mentor texts. If you write picture books like me, challenges such as ReFoReMo (Read for Research Month) takes place every March. Tara Lazar’s Storystorm (formerly known as Picture Book Idea Month/PiBoIdMo) takes place in January for generating ideas. Both challenges include daily inspirational posts and opportunities to win critiques and/or query passes from editors and agents, and of course, books!

And as I mentioned above, if you’re a new kidlit writer, definitely join Kidlit411. It’s the go-to place for articles and other resources, a weekly author & illustrator “spotlight,” craft-based information as well as information on editors, agents and contests.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

Just how magical that moment is when you see those first sketches, and how an illustrator breathes life into your words. It’s always better than I ever could have imagined.

11. How many books have you written?

I currently have four published books with a fifth book releasing in July. I have five more books under contract releasing in the next few years. I also have multiple manuscripts that are out on submission or that are in various stages of readiness. I don’t know the exact total.

12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become better writers (please be as specific and informative as you possibly can)?

Same as #9—read, read, read and read some more. Write, write, and write some more. Revise. Re-work. Repeat.

13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Plant a few seeds as clues (or perhaps as a diversion). Twist endings are fun to read. It has to be a surprise, but still organic at the same time, or the ending will feel incomplete and contrived.

14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

I’m not sure that it makes my books stand out, but I absolutely love the art for all of my books. Each book and artist’s style is so unique and different, yet fits the tone of the book perfectly.

15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

As an introvert, the promoting aspect has been quite challenging. I try to focus on the areas that feel most comfortable for me. It helps that the kidlit writer/artist/librarian/blogger community is full of the kindest, most generous people, so I’m grateful for the connections and friends that I’ve made. I’ve done online blog tours/interviews with giveaways and Goodreads giveaways.

I really enjoy meeting and talking with kids, and I recently did a bunch of Skype visits for World Read Aloud Day which were a lot of fun. I’m just getting started with school visits, although large gatherings are a bit intimidating.

I’ll be participating in two local book festivals this spring, The Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, VA (March), and the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland (May). I’m also doing a talk at a local nature center, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, in May.

I’ve also done readings/book-signings at independent bookstores and libraries in Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I wish I had had the confidence in myself to have begun writing earlier.

17. What saying or mantra do you live by?

I don’t really have a mantra, but I’m trying to be more mindful, child-like in my curiosity, and dog-like by living in the moment and appreciating the small stuff more.

18. Anything else you would like to say?

Thanks for featuring me on your blog, David J.