Monday, September 7, 2015

Michigander Monday: Amy Nielander

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Nielander to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Amy, please tell us a little about yourself.

Amy:  I grew up in Northville, Michigan and was raised with a big family, lots of pets and a constant stream of music playing somewhere in or outside of the house.  Both of my parents are Romanian and we often attended summer picnics where a live band played traditional Romanian folksongs. There, we danced for hours and hours with more family, friends and newcomers building one tremendous swooping line. As a kid, this felt like I was part of a human roller coaster.  We sped up, we slowed down, spiraled in and out as the line grew but never let go of the hand on either side of us.  It was great fun and I treasure those summer memories.  The dance formations we created inspired the last pages of The Ladybug Race, my debut picture book.

Playing music was also a large part of my life growing up.  I took violin lessons at a young age and continued until I graduated from high school.  I built very stable and respectful relationships with my teachers during those years and met good friends through camps and orchestra.

I also really enjoyed reading, writing, drawing and being inventive as a kid. That curiosity and passion for creativity led me to pursue Product Design.  I attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.  After graduation, I lived and worked in Chicago then eventually moved back to Detroit when I got married.  I switched gears from design work to a digital automotive sculpting job (due to the surrounding industry), but then left the workplace all together when we started a family.

My journey to creating picture books started then.  My mom is an incredible writer and wrote a few of her own children’s stories when we were growing up.  I had the time to illustrate one for her and we submitted it, however did not get any bites.  After that project I was hooked on the idea of bringing joy and laughter to kids through books.  I became a member of SCBWI , attended conferences, submitted manuscripts and even earned a spot in a mentorship program.  I was still receiving multiple rejections which went on for years.  Just when I was starting to feel defeated, I heard about the international Silent Book Contest.  The stars finally aligned for me the day I received notice that I was a finalist.  

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Amy:  My very first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is available and published by PomegranateKids.  This book was a two year journey from concept to final publication.  When I came up with the idea I had just learned about the Silent Book Contest through SCBWI, specifically Ruth McNally Barshaw (forever indebted to Ruth!).  Since The Ladybug Race was a picture book that challenged genre boundaries it seemed like the perfect platform to test it out.

In traditional publishing circles, book illustrators are advised to avoid drawing near the center of the book (the gutter).  The Ladybug Race flips this concept on its head, and makes the gutter - the story’s conflict, uncommon in children’s books today.  The story also recognizes more ladybug species than the familiar red bodied-black dotted ladybug children know so well.  Each bug is drawn true to scale, creating a live race-like experience in the reader’s lap.  The wordless book is about compassion, kindness and unconditional love.

I became a Silent Book Contest finalist and traveled to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy where the work was exhibited.  I then queried the story when I returned home and it was picked up by PomegranateKids.  It has been a fabulous fit and I am grateful for their diligent team!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amy:  I have one picture book dummy under a second review with a publisher and queried another house with two other stories.  I am in the waiting stage which is agonizing, but now have time to flesh out a new dummy I plan on querying in December.  Outside of story making, I’d like to add more products to my online SHOP and develop THE BLOB BLOG even more.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amy:  Yes!  The Ladybug Race Book Launch will be held at the Kerrytown BookFest, this Sunday, September 13, 11-5pm.  Please stop in to peruse the great books out there and say “HELLO” to me!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Amy:  We have been longtime enthusiasts of our own library, the Royal Oak Library for the past 10 years.  My kids feel instantly at home every time we visit.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amy:  My favorite place in Michigan...I went away to music camps when I was growing up so being surrounded by trees and water feels comforting. We’ve been camping at the Interlochen State Park the past two years. During evening bonfires, Taps has found its way to our campsite  from the music camp (accompanied by a perfect summer breeze).  This elevated our camping experience to a whole new level of Michiganedness.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Amy:  Living in Royal Oak, we love to bike ride as a family to local events downtown or the Farmers Market.  Arts Eats and Beats is a popular weekend we look forward to.  We also have been Oak Apple runners in the past which is a race that brings many families together throughout the community.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Amy:  There are pockets of places to discover!  We recently did a day trip through Leelanau Peninsula and felt like we had been transported to California with all the windy roads and lovely waterfront views.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Amy:  A happy Michigander grateful for the opportunity to be a guest on Jumping the Candlestick. Thank you Debbie!

Debbie:  Amy, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you for joining us for Michigander Monday!

1 comment:

WENDY said...

Loved hearing all about Amy and how she used the gutter in LADYBUG