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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Promo and Author Interview with Annemarie Riley Guertin..HOW THE FINCH GOT HIS COLORS

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 Annemarie Riley Guertin. Her book, HOW THE FINCH GOT HIS COLORS recently released.  I'm thrilled for her accomplishment, and wanted to take a moment to interview her and get the inside scoop.  Her book looks so beautiful with its vibrant colors!

Book blurb from AMAZON:

Many years ago, before the world bloomed in magnificent colors, the Earth lay stark and gray. The animals that graced its skies and roamed its lands were the colors of dirt, clay, and stone . . . 
. . . until Rainbow descended to bestow her colors on the creatures of the world. Each bird asked for a bright and beautiful color: green for Parrot, red for Cardinal, and yellow for Canary. But will there be any colors left for little Gouldian Finch? He soon learns the power of patience and the beauty of all creatures. Based on a Belgian folktale, this beautifully told and illustrated tale is a timeless treasure for every collection.

Hi Annemarie, I am thrilled to have you joining me today on my blog. I can't wait to get started with my questions...

I see that you are an elementary teacher. How did that help you as you shaped your story?

Being an elementary teacher plays integral part in the stories that I create. I have a front row seat (every single day) for the audience that we are writing books for.  I know what captures their attention, what they wonder about, and what types of books they favor. I also know firsthand where the gaps are in the market place for this audience.

Finch was written out of necessity. I was teaching a unit of study on folktales as part of the Common Core standards. I had a few folktales in my collection but many of them were read in Kindergarten and my students already knew them (The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk.) I really wanted to expose my students to lesser known folktales and that is where I hit a wall.  I had a bit of a challenge finding ones that were standalone picture books. Many titles were found in anthologies that are no longer used in public school classrooms.  After pulling a handful from libraries, I remembered my aunt had given me a collection of books and one of the had folktales in it. I pulled one out that was written in the 1920’s and that is where I found How the Finch Got Her Colors.  It wasn’t a story per say, it was more of a short story with a moral. I was drawn to it and knew if I tried my hand at it I could create a story using the characters and the moral. So, I sat down and got to work. That is how the Finch was born 😊.

What has been your students' reaction to your book?

My students were in awe the first time I read it to them. The illustrations are so vibrant that they pull you in. 

I agree! Your book is absolutely stunning. I love all the colors. 
Because your book is a folktale, I'm interested to know what lesson you hope children uncover as they read the story of Finch?

In terms of lessons, I want my readers to connect with the messages of patience and friendship. Patience comes with practice and at 5 and 6 it’s still not an easy concept to grasp. In the scene where Finch is awaiting his turn, Helena’s illustration captures that emotion so beautifully you don’t even need the text to figure out what’s happening. In fact, I stopped on that page and had the children discuss the illustration and all of them made the connection that Finch felt sad because he waited and then the colors ran out. They connected emotionally with his sadness and the feeling of being left out.
The other message I want readers to connect with is friendship. The birds realized that something was wrong and wanted to help their friend. The true meaning of friendship is something I think they can and will relate to as well. 

Solid messages for children! My next question is about your experience as a new author.
Many people aspire to write children's books. What advice can you offer them based on your journey to publication? How did you find the right match with your publishing house?

When I set out on this journey I had no idea where to begin. I started with contacting a local author and asking her for advice.  She offered one piece of advice and that was to join SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating). She told me that everything I needed to know would be on this site. So, a few weeks later I joined. I read every forum on publishing that I could find. I researched how to write a query letter and where to send unsolicited manuscripts as I didn’t have an agent (I still don’t for that matter!). I also found a few people who were willing to critique my story. After a few weeks of editing both my story and my query letter, I felt confident enough to send my story out. I selected a few publishers that were open to unsolicited manuscripts, sent them off and waited to hear. To my surprise in 2 months time I had a few offers on it! Of the 4 contracts I was offered, I narrowed it down to two. I reached out to authors from each of the publishing companies to ask about their experiences. I spoke with the CEO’s of both publishing houses and asked a lot of questions. I was given the contracts to review and I went with Familius. From my first email with them, through the phone calls etc. I knew this was the place for Finch. Everyone in the Familius family has been wonderful to work with. It has been an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be experiencing.

The best advice I can offer aspiring authors is to ask someone outside your circle to critique your work. Your friends and family love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. You need someone who doesn’t have a personal connection with you to evaluate your writing. I would also strongly encourage them to join SCBWI. One last piece of advice is not to give up. There will be many nos along the way and those can get you down-- but just remember J.K. Rowling didn’t take no for an answer 😊imagine if she had?!!

It sounds like it has been a wonderful journey...and thanks for the excellent advice.  I really appreciate your willingness to stop by and share your story. I wish you the best of luck with Finch as well as your future writing endeavors!

Author Bio: Annemarie Riley Guertin graduated with a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from Wheelock College and a master's degree (summa cum laude) in elementary education from Fitchburg State University. Annemarie is an adjunct early childhood professor and a first grade teacher. She lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, with her husband, Michael and their two children.

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