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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

How Amber Hendricks Authored her Board Book Series

When my boys were toddlers, they hugged board books the way other kids hug stuffed animals. Board book creators know that it’s tricky to capture a toddler's attention. Today, I’m happy to highlight Amber Hendricks, author of the Little Nature Explorers board book series. Forest Friends Sleep and Autumn Leaves Fall were published by Amicus Ink and released on August 9th.

For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a picture book or board book critique. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.

First, I want to share illustrator Gavin Scott’s cozy cover art!

Manju: Hi, Amber! Congratulations on your board book series. Prior to this series you authored three picture books. What inspired you to write board books?

Amber: Hi, Manju! I am so happy to connect with you and all of the Kidlit Creatives members! Thank you so much for having me, today. I am a big fan of writing contests, especially those put on by Susannah Leonard Hill, Vivian Kirkfield, and Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neal. I think they are excellent opportunities to push yourself and really hone your craft– not to mention the added benefit of meeting and interacting with so many other kidlit creators. Though I never intentionally set out to write board books, the Little Nature Explorer series got its start as entries in Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest!

Manju: In 2018, you submitted 2 board books manuscripts to your picture book editor at Amicus Ink. Please share how original concept turned into a 4-board book deal.

Amber: Sure! As you mentioned, between 2018 -19, I submitted the manuscripts for Butterflies Soar and Wildflowers Grow (then it was Wildflowers Thrive) to my editor for Extraordinary Ordinary Ella. I knew Amicus Ink excelled in creating stunning board books so I took a chance and pitched the idea for a two-book series that I called Little Lifecycles. My editor liked the manuscripts but at barely over 30 words each, she didn’t feel like there was quite enough of an arc and asked for a R&R (revise and resubmit). As I was working on those, my editor reached out to ask if I had any ideas for fall themed board books in a similar vein as Butterflies and Wildflowers. I got right to brainstorming and sent back ideas for two additional board books, including sample stanzas. To my delight, my editor was on board and the Little Nature Explorers series was born!

Manju: In your board book, Butterflies Soar, I love the spreads –

Stretch, stretch, curl.

Drying wings unfurl.

Please explain how you crafted the Little Nature Explorers series.

Amber: Thank you! That is one of my favorite spreads as well. When I first started tinkering with the idea of entering Vivian’s 50 Precious Words contest, writing a fully fleshed out story in less than 50 words felt like a daunting task – but one that seemed ideally suited to rhyme. I love how rhyme can convey big concepts/emotions in so few words. The only problem is, writing well in rhyme is notoriously difficult and it was a real learning curve for me. There is a reason why we writers are cautioned not to write in rhyme!

Thankfully, I had critique partners who were well versed in the craft of writing in rhyme and helped me understand the importance of poetic techniques like meter, action verbs, rhythm, stressed and unstressed beats, lyrical language, and perfect rhyming pairs.

Each of the board books in the Little Nature Explorers series is written in rhyming couplets that follow an AA, BB, CC, DD, EE rhyming scheme with three beats in the first line and five beats in the second line. Because the books followed the same pattern, it was just a matter of choosing the best words to convey the different themes and imagery of the stories.

Manju: Board books have a very low word count. Did you include illustration notes? How did you leave room for illustrator’s vision?

Amber: I am all for illustration notes when necessary, but did not include them for any of the Little Nature Explorers books. Knowing that I only had a certain amount of words to work with, I focused on choosing the most active verbs I could to show the movement of each story. I hoped to make the illustrator’s job easier by using lyrical language and strong verbs to paint a picture and I absolutely love how Gavin brought his own vision to the books. If you look closely, you just might spy the little bunny from the cover of Autumn Leaves Fall hiding in some of the spreads!

Thanks very much, Amber!

Born and raised in the Midwest, Amber Hendricks grew up reading everything she could get her hands on- including the morning cereal boxes. Her passion for reading melded into writing as well, and by the age of 11 she was writing and binding her own “books”. Amber has worn many hats in her career but she has always circled back to her first love of reading and telling stories. Though Amber currently resides in Missouri with her husband and two children, she can often be found lost in the pages of a good book.

Prize offer: For a chance to win picture book or board book critique (less than 700 words, non-rhyming) - read the post, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is Monday, August 22nd.

All posts on Manju's blog promote members of Kidlit Creatives: Create, Query & Support. Request to join us by hopping over to our FB page.

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