I recently became acquainted with a fabulous group of writers. We all have one thing in common. We are 2018 debut picture book authors. We have a new website that promotes our books. You can find all of us at: Fireworks and Foliage Debut Picture Book Authors and Illustrators
One if the authors is Katy Farber. Her book, SALAMANDER SKY released this week. I'm thrilled for her accomplishment, and wanted to take a moment to interview her and get the inside scoop. Her book looks fascinating!
Katy, thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you could join me today to talk about your new book, SALAMANDER SKY. If you don't mind, let's get right to the questions!
It seems like you have a true passion for nature. Have you always had this passion, or was there a life experience that caused it to exist and/or grow?
I remember visiting my grandmother and wading up the stream behind her house. I loved the way the mud felt between my toes, and discovering growing tadpoles among the mossy rocks. But I also remember my parents calling me in from the creek, saying, that water is polluted! The pipe above stream is pumping in waste! I was outraged in my 8 year old body. I wrote a series if tiny books about that creek, a local river, and a giant teddy bear that was missing an eye. Turns out, the bear saves the creek and river from pollution.
The tree behind my house was my world away from everything. I would take my pillow up into the giant tree and read, draw and daydream for hours. These memories fueled the kind of writing I do today.
I can see how the wading experience would leave quite an impression on you as a young child. I love that you were a writer even from a young age. I'm also fascinated by the giant tree--that seems like something out of a book. Every child should have a tree like that! I know I would've loved one.
My next question is... what inspired the story Salamander Sky?
Salamander Sky was a poem I wrote when considering the brief, magical, and fleeting migration events on the dirt road in front of my house. I had always loved searching for salamanders and frogs in the spring, and had been helping them cross safely for years. Then I had my daughters, and I knew I wanted to share this with them. We have gone out and helped the salamanders and frogs cross since they could stay up late enough to join me. I thought about how I could inspire kids and families to head out into the rainy nights and experience the magic themselves, and I wrote this story.
But really, the inspiration started long before that, when I found my first newt in a Pennsylvania creek and found it fascinating and beautiful.
That sounds like a really fun parent-child adventure! For those of us who have not ever experienced a salamander crossing, can you describe the experience more in-depth? What is the highlight of experiencing it? If you go out to try this, what should you bring? What should you wear?
The highlight for me is when the light from your flashlight falls on a tiny, vulnerable creature, and you go to it, carefully pick up, visit for a moment, and release it safely. You see the tiny toes, the round eyes, the long tail. There is a deep connection, a feeling of purpose and warmth in knowing that you helped this creature survive.
You should wear all your rain gear, rain books, a reflective vest, and a headlamp. If your children are very young, a bucket helps for placing the animals in gently for the crossing. You should wear a ball cap so water doesn't drip into your eyes, and prepare to get wet! It is all part of the experience. You are also teaching your children to not be afraid of the night and dark. Of course, be on the constant lookout for cars and have a plan for moving to the side of the road immediately if one is coming, no matter what.
I think I found the next thing to put on my bucket list. Absolutely fantastic! Thanks for sharing! My next question is in regards to those who read SALAMANDER SKY. What take-away do you hope your readers gain from your book?
I hope that readers take away an awareness of the importance of salamanders to forest ecology and the biodiversity of our world, and how they can participate in citizen science to help vulnerable populations of different species. I hope readers fall in love with the salamanders like I have, and vow to protect nature in all the ways they can. I also hope we inspire more girls to become scientists and activists.
I love your answer! I hope they they gain those take-aways, too! I am also curious, who is your illustrator?
I feel so lucky to have Meg Sodano's incredibly beautiful and moving illustrations in this book. They extend and deepen the story, they inspire, they transport, and they so clearly teach about the spotted salamander species, and April and her mom's experience and joy in helping them.
Let's get practical. I'm sure you have a few writing tips and techniques up your sleeve that could really help beginning writers. Would you mind sharing some advice?
Write with reckless abandon. Explore your world through words, write about what bothers you, how you think the world should be, whatever is in your mind. Silence your inner critic and anyone else who limits your ideas. Bring a journal with you everywhere-- capture ideas and your thoughts before they move on.
Those are some excellent words of wisdom. And, I just have to ask...do you have any other future works to promote?
I have two other works in various phases right now, but I would love to share about my middle grade eco-adventure novel published in 2015 called The Order of the Trees (Green Writers Press). Cedar was found as a baby under an old growth tree in the northern Vermont woods. She’s as different from the other kids as she could be. Cedar finds her first friend, Phillip, and shares her forest home with him. When Cedar suddenly falls ill Phillip has to figure out why and fast-- before he loses her forever.
I learned something new about you today. I didn't know that you are also a middle grade author. That is so wonderful. A big congratulations on your 2015 eco-adventure novel, and now, with this debut picture book. SALAMANDER SKY looks very fascinating! I wish you all the best. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with me today!
Katy Farber is a writer, researcher and educator from Vermont. She has loved and defended salamanders since standing in a Pennsylvania creek at the age of ten. Salamander Sky is her first picture book. Her other book for children is a middle grade novel called The Order of the Trees, which won Green Earth Honor book award in 2015. She also writes about education, the environment, parenting and sustainability for various websites and publications.