Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!
Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors and illustrators
Congratulations to Baxter Bramatti on the release of
This was the write up in the latest “Hugs and Hurrahs”: Baxter Bramatti’s second self-published picture book, SHADOW SONGS (illustrated by Taylor J. Graham), will be released on June 15. It's a rhyming fantasy tale about a girl who awakes to a mysterious melody coming from a nearby forest. Guided by fireflies, she searches for the source of the sound, but what she sees in the forest might not be what they seem. Care to elaborate further?
Shadow Songs is a fun story that uses the element of surprise in a simple way. The main character is a girl named Flora Figglesworth, who wakes in the middle of the night to a song she can hear coming from a nearby forest. She enters the woods and encounters many different animals that she thinks are playing instruments, like a frog playing the drums or a woodchuck rocking out on guitar. But all she can see is the shadow of the animal with the instrument. Then, fireflies add light to her view and, as a reader, there is an anticipation to turn the page to reveal what Flora actually sees.
As she journeys through the forest and the fireflies light her way, it seems as if all of the animals are snoozing with something near them that looks like the instrument she thought she saw. So, maybe that frog wasn’t playing the drums, maybe it was just sleeping among some mushrooms. Or that fox, it’s just sleeping by a fallen tree trunk that happens to look like a piano. Right? Maybe. I mean, she can still hear the music when she returns home. So maybe those critters really are having a jam session? The end of the book reveals the truth; I don’t want to spoil it for anybody.
Your first picture book was titled MOON PUPPETS What did you learn in the publication of the first book that helped you put together the second?
Dimensions mostly. But that’s boring stuff. Although I really do like the actual designing of the books, the layout and all of that. Oh, and to look everywhere for errors. Then there were things I feel like I should have learned but didn’t. Like a timeline to release the book: when to submit to reviewers, when to start announcing and start promoting, when to schedule a release date in reference to submitting final files to IngramSpark and KDP to allow time for checking proofs. After two books, I still don’t feel like I’ve learned all that. Then there were things we thought we learned, like color, i.e. RGB v. CMKY, but had to relearn for different reasons with Shadow Songs because of the unique shadow/lighting aspect of the book. Designing on a screen and printing on paper can be drastically different.
SHADOW SONGS is a rhyming tale. Why did you tackle the added layer of difficulty of rhyme and meter in telling this story?
My first draft of the story was a poem. Same with Moon Puppets. It was suggested to me to switch the stories to prose. I did it with both and I thought they were terrible. They became too technical and lost their fun. For me, with projects like these two books, I feel that not having them rhyme is the more difficult way to go. I read stories to my kids most nights, and books like On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna and Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme are brilliantly told with no rhyming and I’m wowed by the simplicity and preciseness of the words.
I guess I feel the music-ness comes a little easy to me to start with. And once I get going with an idea, I can fit my words into a pattern, sort of hiding behind that rhyme. Maybe if I come out of that rhyme in a short story or children’s book, I falter.
What was your inspiration for writing SHADOW SONGS?
I wish I knew. I really do. I believe I finished the first draft of the story sometime in 2014. I could say fireflies inspired me. I always loved those little buggers (pun intended, probably). I just remember that once I had the idea of the shadow of one animal with an instrument, only to be revealed by firefly light that the instrument was something else,, I realized I could repeat the pattern into separate stanzas. I thought of books like Julian Donaldson’s The Gruffalo where the main character encounters different animals in the forest, but the setup of the story and rhyme is basic repetition, albeit brilliant, funny, and exciting at the same time.
You’ve got a “Real Job” and a young family. How do you carve out time to create your stories?
Get the work done. Put the kids in bed. Turn off the TV. Attack the ideas if I still have energy. That sounds easy, but in reality all of it’s hard, including turning off the TV. When I get something going, I need to be obsessed about it to see it through. It needs to be the only thing I think about beyond my family (forget the “real job”). I need to eat, drink, and breathe it until it’s taken on its own life and can continue growing.
What is your writing and revisions process?
I write a bunch of stuff then never revise it. Or, I revise it once or twice then lock it away forever. It’s not a good process. For the two books I did publish, it was basically write a story in a couple of sittings, then scream “Is this okay? Does this make sense? What’s wrong with this?” at everyone around me for five years or so until I felt comfortable sharing the stories with the world. I do not recommend using my writing or revision process.
I interviewed you last year as a new SCBWI-MI member (HERE). What has changed in your life since we last communicated with each other?
First, thank you for that interview and featuring my work. As for what’s changed, I’ve neglected my website. I know most of the time people have positive things to say to a question like this. But for me, all I can think of is that I neglected my website and I’m not pleased by that. I’m hoping to change that soon. For anyone reading this, I could always use an accountability/writing partner!
After two picture books, do you still have stories to tell? What’s next?
Absolutely. What’s next is most definitely a third Flora Figglesworth Fantasy. Success or not, I’ve got another almost-complete tale that I have to share. Taylor Graham, the illustrator for Shadow Songs, is on board with it as well. I also have a draft of a middle-grade novel that is close to being complete after some professional grade edits. I’ve been sitting on it for some time now, but I feel it will do the main characters a disservice if I never share their story.
Where did you find your illustrator? Are they the same one who illustrated MOON PUPPETS? What does your working relationship look like?
I found my illustrator by asking a random stranger a few awkward questions on the internet. I’m fairly certain that’s how most relationships start these days so it seemed only natural at the time. And yes, Taylor illustrated Moon Puppets and Shadow Songs and I’m grateful he did. As for our working relationship, it looks like a series of text messages. I’ve never communicated with him in any other way, nor have I seen him or know what he looks like. Part of me thinks I’ll wake up one day and he’ll turn out to be a whole Tyler-Durden-Fight-Club concept and I was just having conversations online with myself and that I created all the art alone. But then I’ll remember I have absolutely no drawing capabilities so I’ll be quick to dismiss that theory.
Taylor lives in San Diego, California, and I was going to visit him last summer, but the pandemic hit and spoiled my plan. Which now just enhances the mystique around our relationship. But I still would like to meet him one day. I mean, we would all like to meet those we admire, no? And I absolutely admire Taylor. He’s put up with me through the creation of two children’s books and he designed images that brought my ideas to life.
A little bit about the author…
Baxter B Bramatti, the author of the Flora Figglesworth Fantasy series, lives in Michigan with his amazing best friend and his loving wife (hint: it's the same person) and their two daughters. He spends his time writing, dreaming, scheming, and eating. He does laundry, too, because food stains are natural consequences of his eating.
A little bit about the book…
Guided by firefly light, Flora searches for the source of a mysterious melody coming from a nearby forest. But deep in the woods, things might not be what they seem. Is that bear playing the banjo? Or that frog, is it jamming on drums? Join Flora as she uncovers the secrets of the Shadow Songs!
Social media contacts:
Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @bbramatti
Where can we buy this book?
Shadow Songs is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and pretty much anywhere books are sold.
If you've got a Book Birthday coming up, contact Charlie Barshaw @ firstname.lastname@example.org