Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! Author Interview

Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! Author Interview

Author Interview:
Donna Marie 

Meet the wonderful lady behind
Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers!

1. When do you find time to read and what do you usually like to read?
You know, that’s the most frustrating thing about my life now, more than ever. I very rarely allow time to read fiction during the day unless it’s my Barnes & Noble stint to catch up on picture books and that’s when I’ll sit in the café and read at least a couple dozen. My days are too full doing so many other things, so I’d typically read MG or YA novels in bed, but that’s become more uncomfortable and I don’t get very far. I would love when a book was SO good, it kept me up all night ‘cause I couldn’t put it down! I have thousands of books, so many I’ve yet to read and wonder if I ever will. Not likely *sigh* I’m constantly reading on line, but it’s all nonfiction-based, whether it’s news, health, research, information, social media.
2. How do you prefer to write your books - with a pen/pencil, typing, or dictation?
This is a question that I think only writers find appealing—I know I like to know too :D I thoroughly enjoy reading about writers’ and illustrators’ processes. For me, I am very fussy about the feel of the pen I use when I write. I want it to be smooth on the paper and comfortable to hold, so it can’t be bulky and I prefer a texture where I grip, rather than the plastic or metal. I never use a pencil to write (unless I’m doing math—like bills!), but I have a favorite mechanical pencil for sketching.

3. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? What other authors are you friends with, and how have they inspired you?
I combined these two questions because they are connected. I hate to think of the $thousands I’ve spent over the years on my writing life, but I can’t say any was actually wasted. Because I could never afford them, I never attended our SCBWI conferences. Unusual circumstances got me involved, and then heavily involved, with our New Jersey Chapter. Through that I’ve met SO many people and have so many dear, cherished KidLit friends it would take a full blog post to name them all, none of whom I would’ve met otherwise. I’ll name just few your readers might be familiar with, IF they know children’s book authors: Ame Dyckman, Beth Ferry, Josh Funk, Annie Silvestro, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Robin Newman, Holly McGhee…OK, I’ll stop there. And there’s a lot of benefit to attending conferences. To me, if you can do it—do it! And be SURE to volunteer! You get to meet more people and experience it in a much better way.

4. What was the first book that you wrote and did you publish it?
I’ll choose the first book I wrote with serious intent (anything before that doesn't count 😀) because, ironically, it ultimately morphed into these books. I wrote it back in about 1993 when I first started concentrating on pursuing publication. It was called The Rainy Day. It had 6 diverse characters and was about a sunny day turning to rain and the mother encouraging them to think of unplugged things to do inside on a rainy day. Over the years those characters have morphed into other projects, but in the picture book realm ultimately became what you see in my “Pippin Pals” books. When the pandemic began and I wanted to contribute to the “stay at home” effort, instead of a blog post of “things to do” at home, that book ended up being rewritten and what you see here is what resulted. A very long, roundabout, unexpected journey!

5. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
These two questions go together too, for me. The first trap would be the ignorance and naivety that comes with being a newbie about the realities of the publishing industry—how difficult it is for virtually everyone to get published. My journey has been decades long, and though I came close to being traditionally published, the stars (acquisitions) didn’t align. I never wanted to self-publish, but here I am. The project warranted it! And I would tell myself—and any young writer—that writing talent may come naturally, but what you think is “good” writing is typically “first draft” quality. On my “Writer Side Up!” blog About page I put:

“To write well takes education and practice.

To write exceptionally well is an art—through revision.

It is in the revision that the work becomes a work of art.”

In other words: learn the craft, learn about the industry, know what the realities are. If writing is truly a passion, you will write no matter what your journey—published or not.

6. What would you like readers to know about your latest book or book project?
Once I realized I had the power to execute these books digitally to make diverse and inclusive versions, there was no stopping me! They were written with a great sense of purpose, and I had the news on the majority of the time during these many months, while working. I was feeling the pandemic in the same stressful way as the rest of the world, but the longer it took to accomplish all this work, the more pressure I felt because I wanted them and the downloads on the site to be of use to people when they were most relevant. Other countries are doing much better than we are in the U.S. (I won’t get into THAT nightmare), but it’s not “over” anywhere, so my hope still holds true—that these books, charts and info can help.

7. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I love the idea of “Easter Eggs” in picture books, though it’s not always on my mind while I’m creating. Sometimes it springs up later in the illustration process. In “Hero Helpers” I highlight healthcare and essential workers, and one of the fun things about that while illustrating was having specific people in mind for a handful of them. I was thinking of my daughter-in-law for the teacher; an ER nurse I saw on TV a lot; my ex’s police uniform is in there, having done the arm patch relatively detailed though it is small; New York Governor Cuomo with his state’s lapel medallion, also more detailed than necessary, considering it’s only a dot on the page; specific news reporters; a Sikh army officer I read about; and even a postal worker I know.

8. Does your family support your career as a writer? Do you use your own name or a pseudonym?
My family and close friends have been supportive of my writing and illustrating children’s book aspirations since I first mentioned it before my son was even born (he’s now 35!). It wasn’t until 1992, when I became officially disabled and could no longer work steadily, that I was encouraged by a friend to start writing again, my having written a poem at that time that she thought was wonderful. (Trust me, when I look back at a lot of my writing, man, do they need rewrites!) The people in my life have watched me create book after book, strive for years to get an agent and get published traditionally, and felt for me through all the ups and downs. It’s a very difficult pursuit and ALL the “stars have to align” for it to happen. Timing tends to be everything, at least in my experience. If I hadn’t written the book, then come up with a way to make this story in 6 (soon 8) diverse versions with choices of gender, skin and hair color, and had thought I could publish ebooks on Amazon for free (you can, but I chose to buy my own ISBNs), I wouldn’t have self-published. But here I am! And lucky me, I get featured on your blog :D 
Check out my book review of
Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers!

You can follow :Donna on Twitter and Facebook, and her Writer Side UP! and Creativity “Cookbook” blogs, and Pippin Pals at, Twitter and Facebook.

COMING SOON: 2 more inclusive versions of Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! by family type.


  1. Loved this interview. Thanks for using your talents to create something so important for kids and classrooms. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Hallee, you are a gift AND one of my dearest, most talented author friends. I hope people recognize YOUR name too! <3 <3 <3


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