Thursday, January 28, 2021

Writer Spotlight: Three Men Join the Ranks

Charlie Barshaw coordinates our quarterly Writer Spotlight feature and interviews writers of SCBWI-MI. In this piece, meet three new to SCBWI-MI writers: Arthur Brood, Baxter Bramatti and Jeffrey Goeb.

Three Men Join the SCBWI-MI Ranks

Arthur Brood


When did you know you were a writer?

 I am a teacher, but had not given thought to being a writer until I was modeling a writing assignment for my students in the early 2000’s.  As I was demonstrating how the outline can be used to write a story I started thinking that I had a story that had potential to become a book.  At that point I realized I would like to write books for struggling boy readers.  I found it was a big process and that writing was the easy part, the hard work starts when the writing is done.


You’ve written three middle grade books about antique cars, obviously an obsession with you. Where did your passion for early automobiles come from?


I have had an interest in automobiles ever since I was a young child.  My mother tells me I was pushing my bottle and making car sounds when I was 6 months old.  I also remember being at my grandparent’s house and watching a Model T drive by on the road, it is imprinted into my memory.  As the years went by I learned more about the history of the automobile industry and read books and magazines about cars.

 How has your teaching career helped your writing career? How has it hindered it?

I have been very fortunate that I taught 4th grade for many years.  Michigan’s auto history fit perfectly into the curriculum that I taught. With some assistance from a colleague I was able to develop a unit of study on the Ford Model T and the Assembly Line. As part of this project I also purchased a go cart sized Model T replica that I converted to electric so it could be used inside a school building.

 I have presented this to many schools across the state.  In 2009 I was presenting the Model T program at a state conference and was introduced to someone from Macomb County Intermediate School District who oversaw the Author, Specialist, Knowledge (ASK) program and I have been honored to present my books to students in their district for the last 10 years.  


In 2015, I was recognized as the Michigan Council of the Social Studies Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year and also awarded the Annette and Jim McConnell History Award by Michigan Council for History and Education.  Although these have been a wide range of events, they all contributed to my writing career in some aspect.  

The challenge I face in being a writer and a teacher is that my school schedule pretty closely matches all other schools and thereby limits my ability to present at schools or attend conferences. The teaching schedule is a benefit in one way, but it does limit the discretionary days I can take off.  

 Another challenge I face is that because I chose to self publish I find that I do not have skillsets in all areas of publishing.  I have sought out editors and illustrators, but marketing seems to be my weak area.

 What are you working on right now?

I am currently trying to relaunch my latest book, Bud: My Adventure Across America.  It was published two weeks before the world shut down for Covid and all the events I had planned were canceled. To further complicate things large publishing houses were providing free materials for young readers, which as an educator was wonderful, but as a small publisher and author I could not compete.

 What are your plans for the future?

 I have ideas for several books in my head, but I have found the reality of teaching full time, raising a family, in addition to my other activities has limited me to focusing on one book at a time.  So at this time there is nothing concrete that I have planned for the future.

 You live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Are you looking forward to the coming winter?

 Not anymore. The older I get the less I enjoy winter.  I like the slower pace of life in the U.P. and the natural beauty, but winter gets very long and creates a lot of work that I do not enjoy anymore.

Contact Arthur:


Baxter Bramatti


When did you know you were a writer?

 Right now! You’ve confirmed it by the way the question was asked. The question I get more often is, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” Wanting and being are two separate experiences. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since my 4th grade teacher introduced creative writing into my weekly routine.  I’ve known I wanted to be a writer in the same way I’ve known I wanted to be a millionaire. Which, by the way, I am well aware that being a writer and being a millionaire are two completely unrelated dreams. 

Being a writer comes in the form of acknowledgement and confirmation by others (some could argue that perhaps it could come from one’s self); that you have written something someone else sees as a valid form of art. Just like being a millionaire happens when you have a million dollars. Since your question implies that I am a writer, then I say, I am one now, and now is when I know I am a writer. And for that, I thank you.  Now, I’m hoping your follow-up question is, “How does it feel to finally be a millionaire?”

 What books and authors influenced you?

Oh, so you didn’t wire me a million dollars for the purpose of calling me a writer and a millionaire in the same interview? That’s okay, being called a writer is more important anyway.

Okay, to answer the question, and I’m sure this sounds phony, but all of them. Anything I’ve ever read, everything from Richard Wright to Neil Gaiman and Albert Camus to Susan Collins, influences my writing and me as a person in different ways. 

As far as picture books go, Maurice Sendak’s work influences me to dream and create from a child’s perspective; Julia Donaldson’s work pushes me to strive for perfection with my own picture books; and Nancy Tillman’s works of sentimental words set to beautiful art remind me of the importance of the words being shared. Those, as well as others, influence me to find my own path with my writing and not be afraid to try something. 

Even “bad” books influence me in a couple of ways: first, they teach me what mistakes not to make and to find my own path to making new mistakes. Second, they inspire me and give me confidence to put my work out there in the “hey, at least mine won’t be as bad as this one” sense.

You published your first picture book, Moon Puppets, earlier this year. What moved you to create Flora Figgleworth’s story?

There’s two ways to interpret this question. The first is with the story itself, which is about a young girl who wants to cast shadow puppets on the moon for the whole world to see. It was inspired by my father. I have vivid memories of my dad shining a flashlight on the ceiling when I was a kid and we’d lose power during thunderstorms. He’d lower his hand over it to make it look as if there was a giant hand above me coming down to pick me up. It’s the perfect spooky-yet-silly dad-trick that gets kids’ minds off of worrying about when the TV is going to turn back on, if only for a few minutes. Well, I was thinking about his nifty little trick one day when I was looking at a full moon many years ago. I started to imagine how spooky-yet-silly it would be if a shadow of a hand spread across the moon.

The second way to interpret the question is to answer what inspired me to create the actual book. I wrote Moon Puppets not long after I imagined a hand moving across the moon seventeen years ago! But it wasn’t until my daughters entered preschool and kindergarten that I was inspired to create the actual book about Flora’s adventure. If I was going to do a picture book, I wanted to see my kids get to experience the book at the appropriate ages. I fear I wouldn’t have gotten the same kind of excitement, positive feedback, and support from them if I waited until they were in high school to publish it.

 What is your Day Job?

 Whatever it is, I haven’t quit it yet, but I also don’t really see achieving that millionaire label anytime soon.

 What are you working on right now?

The illustrator of Moon Puppets, Taylor J. Graham, and I are working on Flora’s second fantasy adventure. It has a planned release date in February of 2021.

I’m also unofficially participating in NaNoWriMo, working on a sort of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 meets Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove style novel set in an assisted living facility. However, at the rate I’m going I don’t expect to hit the 50k-word goal. I really like the concept of NaNoWriMo though, and I think it’s a great event for any kind of writer to try.

And of course I always have a stack of unpolished stories and manuscripts to see through to completion.

 What are your plans for the future?

I plan to do things to ensure I keep getting called a writer. So maybe polishing up some of those stories and manuscripts to make them publishable? But besides writing, I’m really looking forward to traveling with my family in the future when this COVID-19 pandemic comes to some kind of an end. I’d also like to visit classrooms and libraries and read my books to kids after the pandemic. But for now, for the short-term future, I suppose it’s a good time to keep writing, keep creating, and keep dreaming.

 Describe the 5XFat series. What are you trying to accomplish when you listen and write?

The 5xFat series was basically a short-lived writing exercise in the form of a series on my blog. With each piece I would listen to a beat that my friend created on repeat and just think about that music and come up with a theme or story, something I could put into words that expressed how that music made me feel or how it spoke to me. 

Listening to music is a big part of my writing. In 2018, the only time I successfully completed a NaNoWriMo challenge, I only listened to music by Future Islands for the entire month, and always while writing. The band’s music perfectly complemented the self-identification and self-pride story told through the perspective of a horse wanting to be a unicorn. It helps listening to music like that when I write. It can set the mood for the story or even pull me back into that world I created when I need to return.

Contact Baxter:

 Anyone is welcome to contact me at, find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @BBramatti, or see what I’m sporadically up to on my website:

Jeffery Goeb

When did you know you were a writer?

Thinking back to the elementary school days, I feel that I've been decent with the written word from an early age. Having the confidence to put myself out there and open myself up to criticism has been more of a barrier that needed conquering, but reading to my daughter at bedtime is probably the biggest factor in helping me believe that I could write children's books with success. With a multitude of writing styles, and subject matter only limited by the mind, there isn't a whole lot that one can't write about. As a result, I currently have dozens of concepts in an array of styles and topics.

What books and authors influenced you?

For me, "On The Night You Were Born" by Nancy Tillman is hard to beat. It comes across as so heartfelt, and it fits right into my desire to encourage my daughter and constantly remind her of how special she is. I enjoy the fun storytelling and the silly twist of Doreen Cronin's "Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type." "Are Pirates Polite?" by Corinne Demas & Artemis Roehrig has great pace and clever rhyme (and pirates!) And Leslie Kimmelman's characters in "Trick Arrr Treat" showcase such diversity in a very simple and understated way.

What is your day job?

I've had a small home improvement business since 2006; Since being on my own for the past few years,  I've mostly done interior residential painting and bathroom and kitchen remodels. Recently, I've been expanding my business model to include home inspections for the real estate market.

What are you working on right now?

I currently have several concepts in development, including stories about bees, bats, witches, basic Norse mythology and "renaissance festival" types of things-  and something inspired by some of Adam Mansbach's works that I'm particularly excited about (even though it's not for the "little ones.")

What are your plans for the future?

I've had some unique life-experiences in which I've considered writing self-help material and other adult topics, but I think my primary focus moving forward is going to be on writing for kids and really embracing a different kind of creativity that is entertaining, encouraging and empowering to our young generation. I'm pretty new to the whole process and even though it can be intimidating at times, there's literally no limit to what one may be able to create for an audience that is always hungry for new content.

How did you find SCBWI?

I discovered SCBWI pretty early in the process of researching traditional publishing online;  it's been a great way to network and learn about the publishing process, and the workshops are amazing! SCBWI is a phenomenal resource for anyone looking to publish in the children's book genres. I highly encourage members to take advantage of every opportunity available to educate themselves about the creative and rewarding world of children's book writing.

Friday, January 22, 2021

An Interview with Sleeping Bear Press Editor Sarah Rockett

Sleeping Bear Press is a Michigan-based publisher of children's books, and they're currently open to submissions via their standard submission process and their new Own Voices Own Stories Award. Read on for an interview with editor Sarah Rockett to learn more.

Welcome to the Mitten Blog, Sarah! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a born and raised Michigander with an undying passion for children's picture books. I honestly think great picture books make the world a more kind, fair, and creative place. I worked with Penguin Young Readers in New York City for several years, but have been back in the mitten with Sleeping Bear Press since 2013. I live just south of Ann Arbor in a 130-year-old house with my husband, 18-month-old son, and lazy dog. 

What are some of your favorite aspects of your job, and what are some of the challenges?

The absolute best part of my job is writing acceptance emails to new authors--their joy is contagious! Beyond that, being able to see a story come to life as it goes from draft to layout and sketches to final art is pretty magical. For me, the biggest challenges in this industry are anticipating trends, reaching new talent, and representing our readers in an authentic way. There's a definite balance we have to negotiate between what our buyers want, what we hear our little readers need, and what we see in our submissions.

In January 2021, Sleeping Bear Press launched the Own Voices, Own Stories Award for BIPOC and LGBTQ writers. Please share the story behind the creation of this new award, how it came to be, and what you hope to see in submissions.

2020 has been full of heartache, right? But one of the great things to come out of it has been the time and motivation to launch something that we're really proud of and excited about. With the spotlight on racial equity and justice this spring, we knew we needed to work harder to reach the readers and writers that are so underrepresented in children's literature. The award came out of a larger discussion around where we need to do better as a company. With our Grand Prize and Honor Awards we hope to serve both our readers and BIPOC and LGBTQ writers. I hope we see joyous, heartfelt, and funny stories that speak to the experiences of children in those communities. I'm SO looking forward to reading submissions!

Give a shout out for some new or upcoming books you're excited about!

I'm so excited about Little Dandelion Seeds the World (by a Michigan author!) and Ocean Soup, both coming out in March. The first really feels like a classic book from my childhood. The illustrations are lovely and the text is lyrical--AND it has a STEM tie-in. Ocean Soup addresses the really urgent need for us to start curbing our plastics use and get our oceans clean, but it's done in bouncing rhyme with really actionable lessons. Fun AND important!

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

Sleeping Bear Press LOVES telling Michigan stories from Michigan authors--please keep those submissions coming! 

Thanks for your time, Sarah!

Find the Sleeping Bear Press submission guidelines, including instructions for the Own Voices Own Stories Award here:

Submissions for the Own Voices Award will be accepted from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021 with winners notified by August 1, 2021. Awards include a Grand Prize (publishing contract and cash prize) and Honor Awards (cash prize and consulting session with an editor). More information including eligibility and instructions can be found on the submissions section of the Sleeping Bear Press website or visit them on social media.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

A Writer Spotlight, Ask the Editor, Equity & Inclusion Corner, Tips for Starting an Author Newsletter, Book Birthdays, and more! 

We welcome your submissions and are scheduling guest posts for March and beyond. Find our guidelines here:

What We're Looking Forward To:

For more information, including scholarship opportunities, go here:

Scholarship opportunities are available for this conference and more. 
Go here for eligibility and application information:

Have a great weekend!
Kristin Lenz

Friday, January 15, 2021

Leaving No Voice Unheard: Rawk's Commitment

Equity and access are critical elements of a just society that is inclusive to all. However, members of any given group are often not aware of the organizational biases that are part of their history. It behooves organizational leadership and members to analyze the protocol and practices in place that may serve as invisible barriers. Often, these barriers can become stop signs that may lead people to think this group is not for them. If leaders want to change the trajectory of their organization, they can begin by exploring the answers to these questions: Why is it not equitable? Why is it not inclusive, and how do we change our behaviors? 

This blog post is the first of a two-part series to kick-off our 2021 E & I Corner. In Part I, author and illustrator Emmy Kastner describes how Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) reaffirmed their core values, eliminated barriers and biases, and welcomed everyone in their community. Stay tuned for Part II: An Interview with Sonya Barnard-Hollins.  

~ Isabel Estrada O’Hagin, E & I Team Coordinator

Leaving No Voice Unheard: Rawk's Commitment

Story is life force. Our stories must be told and witnessed. Every one of us needs the time and the space and the support to access our voice. A community can only be as healthy and as just as the spectrum of stories it hears. The challenge of inequity is not solved by one promise, but by a collective commitment to witness one another every day, leaving no voice unheard. This is RAWK’s ongoing commitment.     
--RAWK website.

SCBWI-MI member Emmy Kastner co-founded RAWK with Anne Hensley in 2012. According to their website, their mission is to “celebrate and amplify youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills via joy, creativity, equity, and access.” A nonprofit organization, RAWK is committed to nurturing intellectual and creative confidence in youth throughout Kalamazoo County by providing creative writing workshops, summer camps, in-school programs, after school tutoring, and community partnerships. 

Emmy attributes her initial inspiration to the 826Valencia organization started in San Francisco in 2002 that eventually led to an International Alliance of Writing Centers, including one in Ann Arbor/Detroit. After hearing about 826, Emmy recognized the need for such a center in the Kalamazoo area. In conversations with her close friend, Anne, they dreamed up the idea together, and RAWK took off.

After applying for neighborhood grants, they began offering small writing camps for students during the summer. Soon after, Emmy and Anne asked themselves who they wanted to serve and set a goal of figuring out how their resources could be put to better use. Originally more organic in their approach, they became more intentional not solely for the sake of diversity, but to celebrate youth and community. They shifted from a ‘come to us’ to a ‘go to them’ approach and sought out other youth organizations such as Communities in Schools and the Boys and Girls Club and built relationships and partnerships. According to Emmy, it was not about ‘putting up our flag,’ but a sincere effort to work with students, teachers, and librarians (KPL), and that meant going to places where young people gathered. Gradually, RAWK achieved their goals to obtain their own physical space, offer free programming, and support professional staff. RAWK established their writing center located south of Kalamazoo’s historic downtown. They also sponsor Readers' Room, a program on-site within schools.

RAWK’s commitment to equity and access for all means they do not charge fees. All their programming is free for youth who can come to the center and leave with their arms full. ‘Being intentional,’ the organization shifted from pay what you can as that implied that you should pay, to free services and that has allowed them to get rid of barriers. Donations, grant monies, and corporate sponsorships make it possible to offer free programming and books that students can keep. 

RAWK works with preschool through high school age students, all readers and writers who thrive due to the staff and volunteers. During this pandemic, they have adjusted their approach to go beyond in-person opportunities with remote/virtual learning at school or during their summer camp classes. There are plans to publish students’ works in an anthology (usually a public reading at a local indie bookstore). While their storefront is closed, they are eager to hear from their constituents.
During her time at RAWK, Emmy set-up book drops and shelves with thoughtfully curated books for kids to pick up. Believing these efforts last a lifetime—she nurtured young writers with this thought: “You are already a writer and that’s so powerful.” Emmy believes in the power of being heard and connects this to writing. All of their young participants are RAWK rock stars and are able to access the offerings and creative projects. 

Writing is agency and we can empower young people to tell their own stories. 

If you’d like to learn more about RAWK, visit their website:

You can learn more about the International Alliance of Writing Centers at:

Writing Prompt: 

We invite you to share your thoughts on how we can better reframe SCBWI-MI 
intentions with an access mindset.  


One of our first guest posts on the E&I Corner was from Rachel Werner. She recently reached out to share information about a workshop she's teaching this winter at The Loft Literary Center: Reading & Writing Diverse KidLit & YA

To revisit her guest post from last year, How to Pen Diverse Narratives That Work, go here:

In January 2021, Sleeping Bear Press is launching their first Own Voices, Own Stories Award for BIPOC and LGBTQ writers. This award elevates their mission to recognize and amplify new and diverse voices in children’s literature.

Submissions will be accepted from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021 with winners notified by August 1, 2021. Awards include a Grand Prize (publishing contract and cash prize) and Honor Awards (cash prize and consulting session with an editor). Please see the submissions section of their website or visit them on social media for more information.

Stay tuned - The Mitten Blog will have an interview with Sleeping Bear Press editor, Sarah Rockett, coming up this month! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Book Birthday Blog with Ian Tadashi Moore

 Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors and illustrators.


Congratulations to Ian Tadashi Moore on the release of his new book, Where All The Little Things Live! 


The Book Cover for Where All the Little Things Live
Congratulations on the release of Where All the Little Things Live! Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired this story, and how it’s connected to your previous book Tamaishi?

Thank you! It’s been a long journey to get finally get to this point. Naio the feather is my one of my favorite characters from Tamaishi. She played a specific side role in that book — a direct metaphor for having “light thoughts” and a symbol of calm and serenity. Initially I didn’t like the idea of some kind of origin story for her — it seemed better to leave her character wrapped in mystery than explain it.

One afternoon while sitting at a book event and the traffic was slow, I started dreaming up ideas on how she came to be.

My first ideas were pretty rough. Over time and iteration, I sketched out the story that it is now. It reminds me that all ideas are valid and valuable, no matter what you think of them at the time.

The main story arc of Where All the Little Things Live takes place before the events in Tamaishi, and as such Naio is much more unsure of herself and far less serene. But we learn how all that changed.

Concept sketches for a few of Ian's characters

You’ve mentioned before that when you speak in classrooms, you’ll often talk about resilience, and finding your own voice. Can you tell us a little bit about how these things factor into your own creative process?
Ian Tadashi Moore reading to a classroom of kids
I think it’s important to remind kids that learning is a process, and it takes persistence. It’s so easy to forget. My ideas certainly don’t leap out instagram perfect, Nor did my desire to write and illustrate books. It was all an evolution, and it took personal persistence. I’ve enjoyed drawing all my life, but I didn’t consider art at all seriously until my 3rd year of college. I had wandered into a graphic design elective. A switch flipped in that class, and for once I thought maybe I could do it “for real”. I ended up figuring out how to get a degree in graphic design in addition to music. Still, this was more of a step than a magic potion.

When I speak of resilience, I talk about my own evolution as an artist, and the evolution of each piece of art. I start with a book I wrote and illustrated back in 3rd grade, which shows how my drawing has evolved. I demonstrate how my book illustrations started from a little frenetic scribbles and evolved through self-critique and iteration.

Imposter syndrome is very real, and the world is filled with immensely talented writers and illustrators. To focus on all of that is overwhelming to me still. I have to revisit old work to remind myself of how far I’ve come and what I’m capable of doing — sometimes when I look at pieces I get this odd feeling like someone else must have drawn it. Even though that thought is completely irrational, it’s how deep the imposter syndrome can go. But I think you can get past it by giving yourself permission to just draw.

It’s important to observe the work of other artists and learn what you can from them, but you don’t have to be like anyone else. You have a voice, and you have to work to hear it and find it — sometimes this takes a long time, and it’s different for everyone. I hope that I can help some students rediscover this, or maybe never lose it in the first place.
This is your third book backed through Kickstarter. Why do you use this process to get your books out there? Would you recommend it to other indie authors?

In 2010, my band at the time wanted to record an album. We were an unknown, cerebral, prog-rock-jazz band. The idea of approaching recording companies was not really an option, but we felt we had something worth recording. We turned to crowdfunding and it worked! Our fanbase found us and we recorded and produced our first (and frankly only) album.
The finished hardcover book for “Beautiful Dream”

When I decided to write Zōsan in 2015, I remembered this. The circumstances were similar. I’m an unknown author who decided to write and illustrate a book at nearly 40. I quickly gathered that querying and agents would take months, if not years, with no guarantees of success, and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to make anything of a career out of this. But I also realized at that I didn’t intend for my book to be for a broad audience. So what to do?

Back in 2004, I wrote what you might consider my first book. I had compiled artwork by my then 5-year old niece and wrote a short rhyming story about her middle name, Miyume (未夢 “Beautiful Dream”). Back then it was just for us: there were four copies made, hand bound.

With Zōsan, I wanted to make something like that again — a limited run for my sons and future generations.

But then a small development made that more difficult. A friend of mine told me “I can’t wait to read your story”. Except at that time there was no story, really. Zōsan was a picture book illustrating a short Japanese folk song. Her comment made me realize there was a longer narrative. Before long, my 40-word picture book grew into a 5000-word short story.

Despite that, I didn’t want to give up on my printing ideals. It wasn’t something I could afford to just pay for outright. The letterpress printer I was in touch with brainstormed ways to get it done. In the end, she found Charles of Eberhardt Press, who is still doing short-run offset work—a bit of an outlier in the print world these days. The idea was that the offset copies would help cover the costs of making the limited run letterpress book. 

I admit it was a pretty crazy idea. But with Kickstarter, I figured I had nothing to lose. If I didn’t make the funding goal I wouldn’t lose anything besides time, and then I’d try something else. So I shot for the moon… and it worked!

Ian's three books: Zōsan, Tamaishi, and Where All the Little Things Live
After that I wanted to write more. The first Kickstarter success gave me the confidence to do it again when I wrote my second book, Tamaishi.

It’s worth mentioning that my second kickstarter actually failed; The goals were too much, the timing wrong, and the setup not as well conceived. But after a few weeks of reconfiguring, I rebooted and it worked! That helped me print Tamaishi, and now my fourth kickstarter helped me print Little Things.

But whatever your goals, I would highly recommend an indie author try a crowdfunding campaign.

There are many paths to success, and what success means is entirely up to the writer. For me, this was the best path. I think if you’re clear about your goals, take the time to properly convey those goals honestly to your Kickstarter audience, and of course hustle a bit to get the word out, you can achieve your goals on your terms.

What was your experience like working with an independent printer? Do you have any advice to other authors looking to do small print runs, or work with a small business to create their physical copies?

I want to have a personal connection with my collaborators, given the nature of my projects. For Zōsan, I got a tour of their workspaces, talked with them about the love of the craft. I got to know them all as artists and individuals and lucky for me, they were all a good fit. We built mutual trust. That gave me assurance that it would work out well and fostered the relationships that would continue for two more books. No matter what your goals, I think knowing your printer helps.

If your goal is to just get your work in a tangible medium, there are tons of options. My path might not be the right one for everyone.

Small print runs can be achieved through digital printing. I think this is going to be the solution for many. One color digital prints are pretty approachable. Full color printing is significantly more expensive per copy, but if you don’t want more than a couple hundred it still probably makes the most sense.

Even better, print on demand doesn’t even require an upfront cost: upload your book, and you only pay for each copy sold. The print quality is pretty good—Tamaishi is on Amazon KDP—and that whole process makes certain aspects of this really easy.

Eberhardt Press printing the cover for Where All the Little Things Live. Find more of Ian's process on his instagram: @iantm_books
A specially bound hardcover version of Where All the Little Things Live Ian explains the inspiration for this specially bound version of Little Things, made with Windy Weather Bindery: "Part of my dream with my books is to have a few special copies for future generations in my family to have. I had a book in second grade made, hand sewn, of a story I wrote back then. I still have it. When I decided to write in earnest I wanted to make something similar. I found a book binder in Michigan who is making them for me. I’ve had all my books bound this way in small runs."

 Where All the Little Things Live is also the third book you’ve created that includes an audiobook CD. What do you like about audiobooks that motivates you to create them alongside your printed copies?

I have some old cassettes of audiobooks I had as a kid. One was a production of Alice in Wonderland. There were others like “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tinder Box”. All of them used multiple voice actors, incidental music and immersive sound design. I was captivated by all of them, I’m surprised I didn’t ruin the tapes listening to them so much.

Audiobooks let me dive into lots of the things I like to do. They allow younger readers to experience the story without being able to read the words, and the sound design creates a different kind of experience, one left to the mind’s eye.

But I also see it as a historical artifact: a way for my kids and future generations to hear my voice, both literally in terms of the audio recording and figuratively in how I see the world. All of my audiobooks have my voice, my wife’s voice, friends and family and even my two sons. It’s not an entirely happy thought, but I think of these as part of what my sons will have left of me when I’m gone.

Two images: on the left, a closeup of the tape audiobook of Alice in Wonderland. On the right, Ian's son in the recording studio for Ian's audiobooks
From what I’ve heard of your audio book, you do a beautiful job of mixing narration with background music and subtle sound effects! Can you tell us a little about what your recording setup and process looks like?

Thank you!

I have a recording booth setup in my basement for minimal noise, though this kind of sound isolation can be achieved through a few pieces of plywood and some decent acoustic foam padding placement and a decent mic. Software can do a lot now to further clean up the background noise.

When it comes to creating these, it’s a process of layering and listening, a long process where I get to wear a lot of different hats.

I always start with the narrator. I read and record, editing on the fly; you just don’t really know what a sentence sounds like until you try and read it.

Next I use an audio editor — in my case Logic Pro, but there are a number of multi track editors out there — to rough out all the narration.

After that comes character voices. I’ll either record them myself or work with a collaborator. I’m fortunate to have an actress in the house, and many friends who help me out here. I even got my kids involved in the last two books. The characters now fall in line with the narrator. I put in gaps and time the dialogue, using scratch tracks of me if I don’t have other actors’ recordings yet.

As I add in character voices I start working on the sound design. Sound effects add a lot of dimension for the listener. They come from paid services but I also try and record them myself if I can. For instance, I needed a sound of a crab popping out of a shell that was too tight: I recorded myself popping a glass pop bottle with water in it.

At this point there’s more culling of passages that make sense when reading but not when listening. I suppose I could go through the trouble of plotting out a whole screenplay, but I’m more of a panster and this process is so much more active and visceral for me. When listening I can decide if that description is redundant or whether it could be painted with sound instead.

Now I’ve ended up with rough cuts of chapters. I listen to the these… a lot. I listen to them on my drive to and from work, with and without headphones to hear how they sound. I listen to them as I fall asleep, paying close attention to the timing of dialogue, placement of sound effects, the sound balance and whether things are clear or muddy.

Finally comes the music — at least the rest of it. Throughout the rest of this process, I spend some time figuring out a central melody or theme to work with. For Zōsan, it was relatively easy. The story was inspired by a Japanese folk song, so I used that melody. For Tamaishi and Little Things, I played around on the piano to find a theme I liked. I worked out the music for the opening scene and largely leave it alone until I’m mostly done with everything else. By that point I’ve been listening and gathering musical ideas in my head as I listen.

Some the music is me sitting down one day and improvising something along with it. That wouldn’t be as possible before the chapters are roughed out. The dialogue and soundscapes do a lot of the work of shaping the mood; now what’s left is further shaping that emotional tone through music.

I still have a lot of work to do for the music of Little Things, but I love the theme in place now. I has a longing, unresolved chord progression that fits well with Naio’s character. I’m looking forward to getting to the music part of things.

Where All the Little Things Live has also been announced as a winner of the Honorable Mention in both Best Illustration and Chapter Books in the 2020 Royal Dragonfly Awards! What does this achievement mean to you, and the work that you’ve put into your books?

This was a tough question for me. I wondered about why I sought an award at all, but I felt good about this particular book, and I guess I wanted to see if I was kidding myself.

I think as writers—as creatives, really—we all want some degree of validation because it doesn’t always come from within. At least, it doesn’t for me. I had and have a lot of self doubt. Part of that is coming at this “late”, and without much formal training or history.

I thought if I won an award, it might be a way of getting the attention potential readers at in person books events (remember those)? Readers are busy, there are lots of books. I struggle with how to convince them to read mine, like everyone does.

Getting the support on Kickstarter was one way of getting some outside encouragement. People appreciated the work I put into these books enough that they contributed and helped bring them to life. When people take the time and energy to review my books, that’s another form of validation.

So I essentially see these awards as two-word reviews, a signal that the judges who read my work enjoyed it and recognized the time and effort I put into it.

Nothing particularly magic happened after that. It felt great. But I realized I don't like the idea of always looking towards external motivation, e.g. awards. I’d prefer to foster intrinsic motivation. That is, after all, what drew me back to writing and illustrating in the first place. I just wanted to create.

So while I absolutely appreciate the award, and it means a lot to have that external recognition, moving forward I want to remain focused on my personal goals: having a personal project to work on, focus on enjoying the process regardless of reception, and work towards creating books made for my sons and future generations of my family.
What’s on the horizon for you, any new projects in the works? Where can our readers learn more about you?

Finishing the audio book is first — I still have a lot of work to do! After that I want to make more time for creative nourishment. I’d like to take some online writing courses, work on my digital painting and draw more for it’s own sake.

I have a handful of other nascent ideas from children’s poetry to a graphic novel. I’d like to spend more time seeing where those ideas take me. I might return to a collaboration I put on hold with another author. Being able to just focus on illustration felt freeing. But I had to pause that in order to have any hope of finishing Little Things.

Most importantly, I’d like to read more writers’ work. I’m a believer in input = output, and I want to pull in ideas from everywhere again and let them synthesize into my next project. I’ve been so focused on completing this book and I don’t have much bandwidth for that; this isn’t my full time thing, and it’s taken everything I have to finish it.

You can find me in several places: is my linktree of sorts. I have a “create” blog (, my books site ( and a blog there ( I also have accounts on twitter (iantm_books), instagram (iantm_books) and facebook (iantm.books).

Right now it doesn’t feel like I have another book in me waiting to be written. But I said that when I finished Tamaishi, and now Little Things is in print. I suspect eventually I’ll find the words and lines for another book. Meanwhile, I like being able to do it at my own pace.
Two interior illustrations from Where All the Little Things Live. On the left, Naio the feather and Red the balloon floating through the sky. On the right, Naio and Red in small scale next to a huge cloud pillar.
A little bit about the book:

Naio the feather doesn't quite fit in.

She gazes at the clouds each morning, feeling lost and out of place. A sudden icy storm sweeps her into sky, where she discovers the truth of who she is and true nature of the clouds.

A little bit about the author:

Ian Tadashi Moore is a father, designer, musician, and artist from southeast Michigan. He grew up talking to the bugs in the back lawn and plinking melodies on piano keys. He likes the sounds words make and will probably never act his age. He has written and illustrated three books, Zōsan (2015), Tamaishi (2018), and Where All the Little Things Live (2020).
Ian Tadashi Moore reading to a classroom of young students


Friday, January 8, 2021

Featured Illustrator Katie Eberts


This questionnaire goes back to a popular parlor game in the early 1900s. Marcel Proust filled it out twice. Some of our questions were altered from the original to gain more insight into the hearts and minds of our illustrators. We hope you enjoy this way of getting to know everybody.


1. Your present state of mind?

Looking forward to the future.

2. What do you do best?


3. Where would you like to live?

I love where I live in the upper peninsula, but if I had to choose somewhere different, the idea of living abroad in London sounds fun!

4. Your favorite color?


5. Three of your own illustrations:


6. Your music?

The Shins, Bleachers, Andrew Bird, Taylor Swift

7. Your biggest achievement?

My first illustrated book was a cookbook called Fresh Made Simple that I worked on with my friend Lauren K. Stein and published by Storey Publishing. I’m really proud of it.

8. Your biggest mistake?

Dropping the ball on marketing my work when times were good. It makes the slow times even slower.

9. Your favorite children's book when you were a child?

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

10. Your main character trait?


11. What do you appreciate most in a friend?

Getting together and feeling like no time has gone by, even if it’s been a year or more.

12. What mistakes are you most willing to forgive?

Mistakes made in the moment without thinking.

13. Your favorite children's book hero?

Anne of Green Gables.

14. What moves you forward?

Excitement for the next thing.

15. What holds you back?

Second guessing and procrastination.

16. Your dream of happiness?

A summertime picnic with my friends

17. The painter/illustrator you admire most?

Rebecca Green. I just love her work.

18. What super power would you like to have?


19. Your motto?

Onward and upward! 

20. Your social media?

I’m just on instagram - @katieebertsillustration