Children's Book Academy: Interview
Updated: May 5, 2020
I am enchanted and I have only had a phone call. Dr. Mira Reisberg is just delightful. So, fill your cup with tea and join us!
Mira is a warm hug for those who just want to be inspired about their own creativity and wish to produce something great for children and the world at large. Here is a bit of our conversation. I wish you could hear her Australian accent, sensuous love of words, and a cheerful attitude when speaking about her students.
First stop, a fun fact connecting Mira to our Beverly Cleary Event, her cross street in Portland is actually Klickatat Street! The street of many of Beverly Cleary’s characters, like Ramona, Beezus and Henry Huggins. Sometimes stories and characters just have a life of their own and they all meet up because it is meant to be. So, I am very excited to have Mira be part of our event this year which truly inspires hope to us writers and illustrators. I believe it is meant to be.
Amy: When and why did you begin, The Picture Book Academy now known as The Children’s Book Academy?
Mira: I began the Picture Book Academy after leaving academia. I had been teaching at Washington State University and Northern Illinois University and needed to leave to help my aging mom-in-law. I realized I really wanted to connect with smart creatives in a non-institutional way and created an online course about the Hero’s Art Journey focusing on a combination of children’s books, mythology art history, and hands-on art techniques. The Academy began to grow and I added the Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books course.
After a while Hillary Homzie, who is an accomplished children’s book author, approached me and we formed courses together for the now, Children’s Book Academy. One of our upcoming courses is a master course for writing middle grade novels starting in May. You can even sign up early with an early-bird bonus free course, Chapter Book Alchemist. It’s an instant access course.
Amy: You have great courses to offer. Why do you like helping artists and writers with picture books?
Mira: Running the CBA- Children’s Book Academy is really my life’s work. Working with incredibly talented people is a joy. There is something special about helping people to launch their books into the world.
Amy: Great! That leads to my next question. How many books have your students published?
Mira: Our former students have published or contracted 380 and have won all of the major North American awards.
Amy: What do you think is most important when creating a children’s picture book for the author and the illustrator?
Mira: Oh, it definitely needs to be child centric. Topics that interest kids, language that speaks to children, compelling characters and universal themes… and a must again is wonderful language. It’s important to start with a good hook that hooks children in and continues with exciting page turning content. Creating a plot from the character’s hopes, dreams, fears and flaws is key. It’s interesting, at the moment the publishing industry is more interested in books with an urban setting rather than farm. It’s also important to have a satisfying ending, and a bit of humor is always a draw.
Amy: Smiling because her excitement in sharing how to assist is so evident. How did you first break into illustrating a picture book? Did you have an agent?
Mira: I didn’t have an agent for my first book. I actually had an exhibition of my art in San Francisco in early 1988 and received a letter from the mayor and many people shared their joy of my work. It was quite wonderful. A publisher asked me if I would consider illustrating a children’s book. It was a good time in my life. The story was about letting go of old habits, which was very appropriate for me at the time. It was called, “Uncle Nachos Hat,” written by Harriet Rohmer and was one of the first bilingual children’s books.
I am actually getting ready to seek out an agent as, I have now a good eight books to have them consider.
Amy: That’s exciting! What sparks your own creativity? What gets you through if you get roadblocked or do you?
Mira: I actually just have to take it one day at a time. I usually don’t run out of creativity it is usually time that I run short on. But bit-by-bit is a constant that I tell myself with overwhelming projects like dummying up eight manuscripts as I continue to push forward.
Amy: Here are a couple of good questions many people get confused about. Does an illustrator for a picture book have to have an art degree? Does an author pick their artist?
Mira: No, they do not need an art degree. Especially today when fun whimsical art is popular. We love teaching complete beginners in our illustration course. No, authors do not pick their artists but if they know an artist they love, they can suggest it. It depends on the publisher and their resources.
Amy: What is one of the most important habits an author or illustrator may need to focus on?
Mira: Reading and developing both sides of the brain is really important. The creative and the analytical part of the brain is key. First start with a creative side and then analyze what you are doing. It is helpful to be more consciously aware of what you are doing. Oh, and being critiqued is essential.
Amy: What else would you like to tell aspiring creatives for children?
Mira: Read what you love. First read for seduction. Then read for deconstruction. Why is it so, “yummy”? Is it the characters, the plot, the setting or the language? How do these narrative elements support each other? Do the same with your own work. Write or illustrate and let it flow and then come back and consciously look at how the different elements support each other and where they don’t. What is needed and what isn’t? How can your language be improved?
Amy: I am so glad we are able to share about how you have found a creative path to support aspiring authors and illustrators. What is coming up at the Children’s Book Academy for those looking to learn more about writing or illustrating for children?
Thank you for asking. First off we have a lovely FREE 7 day Writing, Illustrating and Revising Children’s Book Course right here: https://bit.ly/FAB_FreeCOURSE
Then starting June 15th, we have a wonderful highly interactive Middle Grade Mastery course, (use our 2020MGLove discount code for a $100 discount until May 15th) and it also comes with a free Chapter Book Alchemist course and whole bunch of other bonuses for those who register before the 15th here: bit.ly/2020MGM Easy applications for a full or half scholarships are here: https://wj168.infusionsoft.com/app/form/2020mgmscholarship
And then to round off the year we’ll have a Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books course and a Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books course later in the year. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a really fun, nurturing, and rewarding life helping people publish books that empower and delight kids. Please check us out at www.childrensbookacademy.com
Amy thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this. It was fun to do.
Mira's full bio.
Dr. Mira Reisberg has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature. She is an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clearfork/Spork and is also the Director of the Children’s Book Academy. Her students have published over 380 books and won every major North American award. Mira’s 8 published children’s books have won awards and sold over 600,000 copies. She previously worked as a university professor teaching children’s literature and art education courses, and as a literary agent. Mira lives in a 100 year-old house in NE Portland, Oregon with her husband and two cats.