Good morning! Today I am thrilled to have debut author Cindy Williams Schrauben here on my blog. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of her book THIS COULD BE YOU (April 1, Cardinal Rule Press), illustrated by Julia Seal. I loved it so much, I reached out to the publisher to hook us up.
Cindy graciously agreed to an interview, and here we are! It was such a joy to get to know her better, and I’m excited for all of you to meet her as well. Also, you can read my review HERE. So enough of my jabbering, let’s meet Cindy! (As always, I’m in green.)
Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
As a mom, grandmother, and former teacher, books have always played a big part in my life. My favorite memories involve kids in my lap reading. Though I have always enjoyed writing, and dreamed of writing a picture book, It wasn’t until my daughters moved out that I took it seriously – I knew I needed my own passion. I attended the NYC-SCBWI Conference early on and the energy and kindness of the kidlit community had me hooked right away.
Conferences are the best. The energy is amazing! Please tell us about your upcoming book, THIS COULD BE YOU.
Unlike many of my books, This Could Be You started out with an intentional message and goal – to inspire kids to believe and achieve by empowering them with growth mindset principles. I set out to create a book in which all kids could see themselves persevering. Each spread stars a different group of children living out their dreams – and, sometimes, struggling along the way. Being able to learn from our failures is a crucial part of a growth mindset.
I completely agree. We all go through failure, but it doesn’t define us. Kids need to see that! Your book creates such a hopeful feeling for your readers. What inspired you to write it?
My grandsons and the realization that I didn’t always encourage a growth mindset in my girls when they were young. Well-meaning comments like, “you are so smart” and “math is just easy for you” can have unintentional negative connotations. Instead, statements like, “Wow, you really worked hard for that” help them to realize that it is ok if something is hard because effort will help us get there. Our talents and skills are malleable. I hope that this book, which features extensive backmatter for adults, will help us all use more intentional language with our kids.
Such great advice! I’ve been working on that as well with my kids. And so much great back matter!
Speaking of work, your rhymes and rhythms are just plain fun to read. Writing in rhyme feels so daunting to me (I clearly need your book to build up my growth mindset!). Your stanzas all sound so perfect, they feel like it must have come out that way, but I’m sure you worked hard at it! Could you share a little bit about your revision process?
Every story in my head comes out in rhyme first – I often realize that rhyme isn’t right for a story, but for this one, I think it works. That isn’t to say that it was perfect (or even good) at the beginning. Rhyming requires a great deal of assessing and maneuvering. I often read out loud while tapping out beats like a conductor (I have to be careful who’s watching my loony antics). That is part of what I love about it, though – it’s like a puzzle.
Love that! I’m sure all us writers look a little loony when in the zone. And so fascinating that you start in rhyme. So, my favorite stanza was, of course, the one about writing. Do you have a favorite stanza? What do you love about it?
Fun fact #1 – the illustrator used a childhood photo of me to draw the young author on that page.
Really??! That is so cool! *runs off to find that page*
Picking my favorite is tough, but I think it is this:
Who has keen-design flair,
an artist’s time-to-shine flair,
a sketch-and-then-refine flair?
Create. It could be you!
Why? It shows a character who tries and fails, but doesn’t give up.
The refinement part is key to success. Such a great stanza.
Moving on to the art . . . it’s so expressive! Julia Seal, the illustrator, did an amazing job! I love the simplicity of the kids, and how well it captures their emotions. Did you have any input on the art or illustrator? What was your reaction at seeing the art? (so many questions!)
I cried! It’s as if Julie Seal was in my head when she created the illustrations. The diversity, the color, everything. I didn’t have any input into the process at all, which was terrifying, but I couldn’t be more pleased.
It IS a terrifying process, but illustrators can do magic. And seeing your characters brought-to-life is a magical moment.
Fun fact #2 – I LOVE the endpapers. My illustrator deserves all the credit for this – she proposed that we ask children we know (along with some winners of a contest) to draw pictures of their dream jobs. Those Jr. Illustrators include my grandsons, nieces, nephews, etc. They loved being a part of it.
I LOVED the endpapers! Brilliant idea from Julia. And so exciting for those kids!
Can we talk writing for a minute? How many picture books would you say you wrote before finally getting a deal on this one?
Oh boy. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many unfinished stories I have, but as far as completed, ready to submit stories, close to 20.
Wow. But it really shows you are living the message of THIS COULD BE YOU. What helped you the most on the path to publication?
The number one most important part of my journey has been the kidlit community – from critique partners to contest organizers and bloggers. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have kept going without them.
So much truth. The kidlit community is so uplifting. 💜
Now on to the speed round of favorites!
Ice cream: Vanilla with lots of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. But, I don’t think there is a flavor I would pass up. Ice cream is my weakness.
Time of day: Late at night
Musical instrument: Piano
I love how much we can learn from one-word answers. Love it all! (And Three Ninja Pigs is a favorite of mine, too!)
One last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think your characters might choose for their personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
So perfect! Thanks so much again!
Thank you! This has been lots of fun.
Cindy Williams Schrauben lives in Michigan where she writes books for kids that range from the truly serious to the seriously silly. Before embarking on this path, she held positions as a preschool administrator, teacher, and assistant director of a children’s museum — always striving to empower kids. When not writing or honing her craft, Cindy might be found dissecting her grandsons’ shenanigans for story ideas, reading on the floor in the bookstore, or eating ice cream… ideally all at once.
You can purchase THIS COULD BE YOU through Monkey See, Monkey Do books, or wherever books are sold.