Today’s #kidlit interview is with Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia, whose book, BALLOONS FOR PAPA (Illus. Erika Meza / Harper Collins), releases next week: April 27th.
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your blog, Erin!!
Q 1. What are the challenges in launching a book during a pandemic? And how did you deal with those challenges?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Ah, yes. Such great questions. I don’t think any of us were prepared for how the pandemic would affect the launches of our books. The funny thing is – I have only launched books during a pandemic. My debut picture book, BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG, came out in September of 2020 and now BALLOONS FOR PAPA.
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: I think the most challenging part for me was and is not having that face-to-face contact with readers, booksellers, libraries, and schools. My go-to phrases have become “be flexible” and “be unique”. In other words, be willing to try something new and different. My publisher for BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG was fantastic and supportive at exploring unique ways to promote my book. We did virtual story times, unique posts on how BESS came to be, giveaways, and even made a video of me reading BESS in front of an old barn. BESS, also, received huge support from several book bloggers, who featured it on their Instagram and Twitter feeds. With BALLOONS FOR PAPA, I reached out again to Instagram book bloggers and to generous kidlit authors, like you, to help get the word out.
I am also doing a virtual story time with @StoryhouseBookpub on May 23rd on Instagram and Facebook. Everyone is welcome.
I hope you can join in the fun!
At the local level, I contacted booksellers and libraries, then sent bookmarks and other promotional items to them. All of them have shown wonderful interest and support of both of my books and I am so grateful.
Kidlit Promotional Groups
Another absolutely invaluable source of support are kidlit promotional groups. I have been fortunate to be a part of two amazing groups – Perfect2020PBs (now known as KidlitCollective) and 2021derfuls. With everyone on a similar journey, the groups provide support and camaraderie that make all the difference in the world whether there is a pandemic or not!
Q 2. You mention in a previous interview that the inspiration for BALLOONS FOR PAPA stems from your children’s reaction to your personal experiences with depression. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, would you care to share more about this?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Sure, Erin. I would be happy to. As all writers know, inspiration for our stories is all around us, but sometimes the inspiration comes from our memories. That’s what happened to me with BALLOONS FOR PAPA.
As I wrote BALLOONS FOR PAPA, there were two memories of when my own children provided empathy and hope to me as I struggled with mild bouts of depression. What I remembered the most from those moments were not how deeply sad I was or how out of control I felt, but my children’s genuine compassion toward me and my emotions.
In one memory, it was my very young son asking if I was okay and offering to help as I struggled with my newborn daughter’s inconsolable crying. It was a small, simple gesture, but so impactful. It let me know I wasn’t alone and that someone cared at a moment when I truly needed it. The other memory occurred after my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. We, as a family, reeled from diagnosis, but it was my daughter’s steadfast resolve that she would be strong for everyone, especially for her dad, that remained in my memory. Their insightful empathy and hope shaped Arthur’s character and became the heart of the story.
Q 3. What surprises did the illustrator Erika Meza bring to the book?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Erika brought the absolute best kind of surprises to this project! I always joke with her that she must be a mind reader, because her illustrations were exactly what I envisioned for Arthur’s story…but sooo much better! BALLOONS FOR PAPA addresses the serious topic of parental depression through Arthur’s eyes. Knowing this, I felt too many words or too much explanation through the text would weight down the story. Erika’s illustrations bring the perfect balance and breathe life into my words. They add just the right amount of depth and emotion to the story arc.
Q 4. Whose idea was it to juxtapose the wonderful splashes of color against black & white images?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Great question! The credit goes entirely to Erika and our UK editor, Alli Brydon. While my original manuscript I submitted to Alli did have a small note mentioning the desire to have the setting mimic the character’s emotions, Erika took that suggestion – knocked it out of the park! Her illustrations are gorgeous and I couldn’t be more grateful to have worked with her on this project.
Q 5. I see that you love playing board games. Which game best describes your Kidlit Writing journey (and why):
a. Chutes and Ladders
d. Trivial Pursuit
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Ohhh! I do LOVE board games and card games! I would have to say Risk. It is a board game all about strategy, planning… and luck! We all know, in the publishing world, you have to be willing to take risks and put yourself out there. I am an introvert, so taking risks isn’t always my first go-to. J However, I would say with my writing journey – I have been more willing to take risks and put myself and my work out there. I think the strategy and planning in my writing journey translates into keeping an eye on the market while maintaining a steady focus on improving my work in hopes some of my stories will find the perfect homes. And, of course, everyone could use a little luck on their side!
Q 6. How do your previous careers– researcher, elementary school teacher, audiologist –influence your writing process?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: The simplest answer is I love to learn. This trait was present when I was a researcher, teacher, audiologist and is present now as a writer. The need to learn about any given topic runs through my veins and I can’t seem to change that. Not that I want to. Though, many times it takes me down rabbit holes while exploring new ideas or researching a new story. J But I think without it, my writing and my writing process would become stale and as with any career, no one wants that to happen.
Q 7. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Children are incredibly insightful and have big feelings just as we adults do – it is my hope that BALLOONS FOR PAPA acts as a conversation starter to talk about those big feelings we all have. I especially hope children will see even small gestures of compassion can have lasting impacts on the adults in their lives.
Q 8. Thank you for writing books that provide such comforting perspectives to readers young and old. [*Congrats on BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG (Illustrated by Katie Hickey/ Page Street Kids) being selected as a Booklist Best of 2020. ] What projects are you working on now?
Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: Aww, thank you, Erin! It is always my hope that both children and adults will connect with my stories.
I am currently working on a nonfiction project. It is the first time I have utilized my audiology background for a story. It’s been a fun challenge melding my scientific brain and writerly brain together, though they were at odds at times in the initial writing process.
Thanks so much again for hosting me on your blog, Erin. It’s been great fun!
To learn more about Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia and her books check out elizabethgilbertbedia.com