Hello and welcome to my ‘#GrowYourWriting Creator Interviews’ blog series. My goal is to shine a spotlight on kidlit creators and their fabulous projects and allow them to share their tips and tricks to grow your writing. Today I’d like to welcome Author and Translator, Gabriella Aldeman.
Gabriella Aldeman is a Panamanian American author and professional translator of children’s books and academic resources. Her books include Paula’s Patches (Free Spirit, 2023) and Squawk of Spanish (Charlesbridge, 2024). She lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband, two children, and a guinea pig named Giuseppe. Please visit her at www.writebetween.com or on social media @write_between.
1 – What inspired you to pursue a career in children’s literature, and when did you start creating?
My career in children’s literature started with translation. I’ve always had a passion for the written word, but I never thought I could become an author. I figured that specific title was reserved for the true masters of the English language and not someone that still has to mentally sound out wed-nes-day. But as I started translating picture books, I fell in love with the craft and decided to start writing my own stories. I joined a critique group and, little by little, I got to where I am now. For me, it’s all about writing. I can’t control where I’ll be, publishing-wise, twenty years from now, but I’m pretty sure I’ll still be writing.
2 – Can you please tell us how the idea for your picture book, ‘Paula’s Patches’ came about and its journey to publication?
My daughter’s pants used to tear all the time. This resulted in big feelings, mostly from me. When I was a child, I felt self-conscious about my clothes and the way they fit. I wanted to create a character that would overcome feeling embarrassed in order to share her ideas with friends and classmates. Additionally, I wanted Paula’s Patches to celebrate the value of mending and serve as a starting point for discussion of consumerism, throwaway culture, and fast fashion.
The journey to publication of Paula’s Patches, which will be my debut picture book, began in June 2021. I participated in the Twitter pitch contest #PBPitch with this pitch: “Paula’s pants ripped at the knee. She tries everything to hide the tear from her classmates, only to find out that they, too, have leaky lunchboxes, spaghetti stains, and hand-me-down backpacks. Nothing some colorful patches can’t fix! #PBPitch #PB #SEL #POC.” That got two hearts from acquiring editors. One of them was Meg Bratsch at Free Spirit who took Paula’s Patches to acquisition (that August) and offered me a contract.
3- What’s next for you as a creator?
I’ll be busy promoting Paula’s Patches this summer. I have a handful of bookstore events lined up around Northern Virginia (where I live) and I’ll be attending fall festivals as well. I’m also excited to announce that I was asked to translate my second picture book, Squawk of Spanish/Un graznido en español, which will come out next year (2024) in English and Spanish from Charlesbridge Publishing. I also have a couple more picture books in the works for publication in 2025 and 2026.
4 – What part of the process, from the first draft to submissions, did you find the most challenging, and how do you overcome that?
In writing Paula’s Patches, the hardest part was to maintain the tone. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to lead with joy, even though the story starts with a “rrrrip” and Paula’s fear of being ridiculed. I also didn’t want to be too sappy, even though the story celebrates the power of creative thinking and the importance of feeling supported by friends. Different manuscripts present different challenges. My advice is to stay with the manuscript long enough to understand what you want to convey before sharing and revising with others.
5 – What overall advice would you like to give aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing?
On writing and revising: As you are writing and revising, make sure to ask yourself: What is my story really about? Then ask a follow-up question: Why would anyone care? Understanding how readers will connect with your story will let you know if your story has enough heart.
On submission: Cast a wide net. It really only takes one yes, so attend conferences, share with editors, participate in contests, and put yourself out there. Whether or not your manuscript gets acquired, you’ll be sure to get industry knowledge, constructive advice, and camaraderie along the way.
On something you can do right now that will save you a headache later: Create a separate social media profile for professional use. You don’t have to do this for every social media platform, just for those you use a lot in your personal life. For me that’s Instagram and Goodreads: I have a public professional account and a personal account that is private. You won’t want to share every personal detail of your life (or your children’s life) with editors, librarians, publishers, and the writing community. Likewise, your family and non-writing friends may get tired of you going on and on about writing and publishing.
Guess What? It’s giveaway time! Gabriella has graciously offered to host a giveaway for our readers.
**Stickers and a a signed copy of ‘Paula’s Patches’ (US entries only)**
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post below! Entry period closes on June 30, 2023 at 12am PST. One Winner will be announced July 1, 2023.
1 Bonus entry is available for anyone who shares this post on twitter and tags @write_between and @C_Alemshah.