Bonny's A BEDTIME FOR BEAR won the Crystal Kite Award and is the third in her series of best-selling Bear and Mouse picture books. A VISIT FOR BEAR won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and was Amazon’s Picture Book of the Year. Her middle-grade novel, THE MAGICAL MS. PLUM, won the 2010 Washington State Children’s Book Award. In all, she’s published 12 books for children.
Bonny was gracious enough to answer some questions for us about her writing and winning the Crystal Kite Award.
When did you start writing?
I wrote my first “book” in the second grade. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. But I started writing specifically for children about 24 years ago.
What is the best and worst advice you were given when you started in children's literature?Hmmm, that’s a hard one. Maybe the best was to join SCBWI. That sounds like a “suck-up” answer, but it was a simple single doorway into so much information and support and contacts.
The worst? I don’t know if it was advice so much as an impression I got, which was that somehow there was a special, magic destiny for those who got published. It seemed like they “just happened” to get that story idea, meet that editor, have a friend of a friend. Like there was this lucky chain of events for the chosen ones and I worried about missing that moment of luck. What if the gold was behind Door Three and I forgot to open it? Now I know that the old cliché is true—the harder you work the luckier you get. And that there is no one magic way to get to the goal. If you do the work and write something good, get your work out there, stay in the flow, then a number of doors will open for you over time.
What was your inspiration for your Bear stories?
I was musing about the idea that we tend to get the same problems over and over in our lives and the idea of a mouse who wouldn’t go away popped into my head. I quickly settled on a grumpy bear as the perfect victim for my little mouse. Then the characters became so distinct and so fun, I couldn’t resist going on to create more stories of aggravation for Bear.
When did you join SCBWI? And how has being part of SCBWI influenced your writing process?
I joined SCBWI very soon after I started writing for children, so about 1989. SCBWI
SCBWI has been incredibly important in my career. When I first started out I was in awe at being in the same room as published authors. I was so jealous when they showed sample art for their books and complained about their editors and agents. I would have given my eyeteeth to complain about “my” editor! It offered so much information and support as a beginner and, now, as one of those published authors, it’s a place to connect with friends and fellow writers and for continuing support in this phase of my writing. It’s my number one recommendation to people who say they’d like to write for children.
What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?
The thing I dislike the most is getting started writing. It takes a lot of effort for me to finally, actually, sit down and just write!
What I like the most is the whole process of creating—once I’m actually writing I like wrestling with ideas, researching things, thinking of something cool I can do in a plot, writing a good line, making myself laugh. I love the sheer fun of creating something.
Can you explain what winning the Crystal Kite Award means for you as an author?
It means a lot to me because it was voted on by my peers here in the Northwest. I get such a lift out of hearing from another writer about how much they enjoyed the book. Only other writers really know what goes into something as “simple” as a picture book!
What's your writing environment look like? Where do you do your best writing?
Now that my kids are gone and we have a couple empty bedrooms, I have my own office at home. I have nice views into the side yard and back yard and lots of bookshelves and a big desk. Bottom line, though, it’s fairly messy. I’m a “piler” rather than a “filer.”
Are you part of a critique group? If yes, how has that helped you as a writer? If no, where do you get feedback for your work?
I belong to a great critique group including local writers Kirby Larson, Dave Pateneude, Kathryn Galbraith and Slyvie Hossack. I can’t imagine writing without feedback and these guys really know what they are doing.
What's next for you? What are you working on?
I have two more Mouse and Bear books in the works. I’m also working on two other picture books. One I’ve sold but I’m working on rewrites. And the other is going the rounds. Both are very different from Mouse and Bear. I’m also working on an older middle-grade fantasy. It’s really fun to work on different genres and writing styles.
As you know, those who are in children's literature tend to have lengthy discussions on the important topic of snacks (usually it's a baked good). What's your favorite snack?
Top Pot chocolate sandcastle doughnuts!
Thanks to Bonny for her wonderful answers! It'll be wonderful to hear more from her in April!!