Saturday, December 4, 2010

HIGH FIVE #2: Heather Ayris Burnell Interview

right_hand_print_benji_p_01Here's a big HIGH FIVE to Heather Ayris Burnell and her debut picture book, Bedtime Monster (Raven Tree Press, September 2010). She sold it on her own, without an agent.

Paul is just a nice, ordinary kid. Until bedtime that is, when Paul becomes positively monstrous! He whines. He grumbles. He howls. Paul even sprouts long ears, sharp claws, and a great big tail. Paul is a bedtime monster!

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you really have way more than three)?

It's true, I LOVE picture books. I read towering stacks of them every week. Just three huh...
·         WHEN PIGASSO MET MOOTISSE by Nina Laden – I go back to this one time and again. It's a fabulous story about two great artists and what things might have been like between them—if they were a pig and a cow.
·         BILLY'S BUCKET written by Kes Gray, Illustrated by Garry Parsons - Love this one, it's full of imagination and fun.
·         BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE: A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by James Warhola. The voice in this book is spot on!

Question TWO: How did you come up with the idea for your debut book? Do you have anything in the works that is NOT a picture book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it? If not, can you tell us about one of your other picture books?

I came up with the idea for BEDTIME MONSTER after an evening of trying to get my kids into bed when they really didn't want to go. I wrote the story because I thought it would be great fun to see the physical manifestation of a tantrum. I love the idea of a kid turning into an actual monster—as long as it's not my kid.

Picture books are my favorite thing to write, but I do enjoy writing other things too. Right now I'm working on finishing up my middle grade novel about a boy who has to save his best friend from giant frogs.

Question THREE: Will you share your top three tips for writers about writing, publishing, or whatever you have learned along the way that stands out as being very important, but no one ever tells you about?

·         Remember the story of how you came up with your story. It's something people are going to want to know when your book comes out.
·         You will have to write lots of supplemental material to go with your book such as bios, press releases, activities, etc.
·         People are going to think you are great at your presentations, no matter how nervous you feel. They look up to you as an author and want to hear what you have to say. Putting time into planning your presentations will make you feel prepared.

Question FOUR: Can teachers use your book in the classroom? Do you have any additional resources available for teachers? What advice can you give teachers to help children love reading and writing? Are you available for school visits? If so, what are your lessons like?

Teachers can definitely use BEDTIME MONSTER in the classroom. It's a quick storytime read. It could also be used to open a discussion about feelings. There are downloadable activities at the Raven Tree Press website that can be used to supplement a lesson. They include discussion questions, a game of “hang monster,” a happy/sad mask craft that includes an optional singing activity, a monster snack, and a coloring sheet.

There is also an English/Spanish version, BEDTIME MONSTER/¡A DORMIR PEQUEÑO MONSTRUO! That could be a used in ESL classes or to teach English speaking students some Spanish words. There is a keyword vocabulary page at the back of the book to jumpstart learning in either language.

I think teachers can help their students love reading and writing by sharing fun books with them and showing them that writers are everyday people who don't just write something perfectly the first time.  There are lots of ways for teachers and students to connect with authors these days. It can be a great supplement to the learning experience.

I do school and library visits. I've done writing projects with kids from 1st to 4th grade. I tell them about revision and how my stories don't usually come out the way I want them to the first time I put them down on paper. I also talk about the long process it took to get BEDTIME MONSTER published. It shows the kids that patience can pay off. I've come up with some fun crafts for my BEDTIME MONSTER visits too.

Question: FIVE: What advice can you give to parents about life, parenting, or creating literate children? Do you read picture books to your own children?

I read picture books to my kids every day. They have grown up going to the library, checking out big stacks of books and participating in library programs. You can teach children to both love and respect books if you start bringing them to the library from an early age. Obviously, I've gone through some bedtime struggles but when I hear my kids whispering, “I love you” to each other after I turn out the light I know they're doing just fine.

***Thanks, so much Heather! Hope to see a second book from you soon!***


  1. Thanks, Heather!! Your middle grade novel sounds like fun!!

  2. Giant frogs. One can only imagine the adventures they'll have.

  3. Many, many congratulations Heather. Looks like I have another gift idea for my own little Bedtime Monster. :-)

  4. I hope it will be, Paul!
    Thank you Julie! Good luck with your bedtime monster. ;-)
    And thank you to you, Christie for having me on your blog. It was fun!

  5. Thanks, Christie... lovely to read this after Julie's review today! When Pigasso Meets Mootisse is also one of my favorites!

  6. Thanks for coming over here to read about me, Joanna! Isn't Nina Laden great? We also love, love, love Roberto the Insect Architect.


I love hearing from you! Share your thoughts below.


Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...