Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Hello – it’s awesome to meet you! My name is Susan Schaefer Bernardo, and I am a poet and children’s book author. I began writing children’s books by accident in 2012 when I was going through a tough divorce (is there any other kind?) and missing my kids when they were at their dad’s. My good friend Courtenay Fletcher was also grieving – she had just lost a dear friend, also a young mom, to breast cancer. We wanted to create a book to reassure kids that they were loved and always connected to the people they love, even when physically separated from them – and the result was Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs (I wrote the verses, and Courtenay illustrated). After a successful Kickstarter campaign, we indie published the book – and magic happened. Our book found its way into the hands of LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow, Star Trek, Roots) and he invited us to collaborate with him on The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, a picture book to help families cope with trauma. The Rhino book has been read aloud by Michelle Obama and sent via rocket to the International Space Station for an innovative STEAM program called Storytime from Space. It is ORBITING THE PLANET!
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Our latest book is The Big Adventures of Tiny House, which is a picture book about an old farmhouse that gets recycled into a tiny house on wheels and sets off across America to discover what it means to be a home. It was inspired by actual people we met in the tiny house movement, especially Christian Parsons and Alexis Stephens of Tiny House Expedition, who have traveled more than 45,000 miles in a home they built from repurposed materials.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I am all over the map. I write outside on the deck, in the living room, in coffeehouses while I am traveling…anywhere I can bring my little Airbook named Excalibur. I am easily distracted by bright shiny objects, chocolate and Facebook. And my dog. For the past three years, I have participated in NaNoWriMo, churning out 50,000 word drafts of a YA series I am launching in February 2018. Some books come through REALLY FAST (from idea to printed book with Sun kisses was 9 months, including the crowdfunding drive!) and others take a LONG time (like Inspired, the first book in my Firefly Tribe series, which I started writing in 1994! 23 years is a really long time to work on a book – I am SO ready to birth this one!).
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham is the first book I read by myself as a child, and I think my fate as a rhyming picture book writer was sealed in that moment! It is so fun reading my books to kis in schools, especially on Read Across America Day when I get to wear my red-and-white-striped hat. I am a huge fan of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodsgon Burnett (I still re-read them every so often, like comfort food), along with all the dragon books of Anne McCaffrey, fantasy by Ursula K LeGuin, and of course, JKRowling and the magical-in-every-way Harry Potter series. Lately, I have been reading everything by Alexander McCall Smith. I read a broad range of books from chick lit to sci fi to memoir to non-fiction books about anthropology and science.
What are you working on now?
I am SO EAGER to release my next few books! I am in the process of working with the book designer for my YA novel Inspired (Courtenay is doing the most fabulous cover for me!). Courtenay and I have several picture books in the pipeline, too, including a picture book biography about an artist and a fun little alpaca story. I’m also always hard at work attending to the business of being an indie publisher and speaking to kids at schools and libraries. And…I have been doing an amazing national circuit of tiny house festivals since The Big Adventures of Tiny House came out in the spring, including Seattle, Portland, Georgia, Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida and Texas! Our character Tiny has really been embraced by the tiny house community, which is BIG!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Getting out there to meet people in person at schools and festivals and libraries is my favorite. I also love interacting with people on Instagram and our Facebook page. Courtenay and I try to put helpful stuff for readers on our websites, too – especially activities to accompany outr books that help families coping with loss and trauma. I try lots of things to get the books and myself into the world. Right now, I am looking for the best way to connect with indie YA readers – any ideas?
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Shoot for the moon….you might land on the Space Station!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
It’s your life…you’ve gotta love it” (from LeVar Burton).
=”Look for the Helpers!” from Mister Rodgers.
And … I love this line LeVar and I came up with for The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm: “After every dark night, there comes a new day / Beeeee kind, do your best, and you’ll find your way.”
What are you reading now?
Just finished The Orphan Train (awesome!) and now I am reading Restoree by Anne McCaffrey. I set my Goodreads goal for the year at 33 books, and blew past that in a few months. I devour books.
What’s next for you as a writer?
More picture books, and revising book 2 of The Firefly Tribe YA series….hopefully while staying in Ireland, where the book is set 🙂 Launching The Artist Who Loved Cats. A bilingual version of Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs to help immigrant children feel safe and connected. Mastering Amazon. Speaking to more people about the business of indie publishing and crowdfunding. Inspiring and being inspired! SO many books to release, so little time to sleep! Ooh, and NaNoWriMo is coming around again – I am trying my hand at a funny middle grade novel this time.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
That would be lovely for a month or two…
I would bring…
-Some sort of practical prepper’s survival guide
-a really thick journal (and a pen, so I didn’t have to harvest squid ink or anything like that!) and a thesaurus
–The Little Princess
–nothing by Stephen King (cuz I would he scared enough already!)