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  • Manju Howard

Joint Interview: Author Norene Paulson and Agent Naomi Davis

I’m happy to interview talented picture book author, Norene Paulson. Plus, I would like to welcome Naomi Davis, agent at BookEnds Literary Agency. Naomi sold Norene’s second picture book, WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?, to Andrea Hall at Albert Whitman. Their book will be released on March 1st.


For our Kidlit Creatives Members, you have a chance to win a copy of WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?. To WIN this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.


First, I want to share Illustrator Camila Carrossine’s fun cover art!

Hi Norene! Congratulations on your second picture book - WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR. Please take us back to the first book that hooked your agent.


I connected with Naomi through the February 2018 #PBPitch Twitter party.

My pitch – "In NOT A BAT, a story about gender transitioning, Bennie risks everything for the chance to become his authentic self…a butterfly. #pbpitch #LGBTQ"


She hearted the pitch for my debut BENNY'S TRUE COLORS (which released from Macmillan on Nov. 17th). As requested, I submitted the complete manuscript, and the following day, she requested to see two additional stories. After four days of sitting on the edge of my seat, Naomi emailed and asked if I had time for a phone call. During that call, she offered me representation and exactly one week from when I pitched on #PBPitch, I signed with her.


Hi Naomi! Why did WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR appeal to you as Norene’s second book?


I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with Norene and her picture books. Norene’s whole approach gives me this wonderful feeling of acceptance, and I love her desire to show kids new ways of relating to each other through both ways they are similar, and ways they experience life differently. WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR, to me, is the story of a girl solving problems on her own terms.



Norene: The main character Bea has alopecia, causing her to be bald. My heart sinks a bit when her school plans a Silly Hair Day. Please share why you needed to tell this story.


I was drawn to tell Bea’s story for two reasons. First, being a former teacher, I witnessed kids struggling to fit in particularly if they didn’t fit a certain mold and second, there needs to be some rethinking in regards to school culture. When I taught, I was always a bit leery of school activities that no matter how unintentional left some students on the outside looking in. Silly Hair Day was one of those activities. Schools need to be more mindful when planning special activities so all students are able to participate at the same level. In addition I wanted the approximately three million kids who experience hair loss to see themselves in the pages of a book and feel empowered by Bea’s ingenuity and determination.


Norene: After WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR was acquired by Andrea Hall at Albert Whitman, were further edits requested?


Actually, the edits began before the book was acquired. When Andrea showed an interest in the manuscript, there were some changes she asked if I’d be willing to make. Of course, I said “Yes”. After two rounds of edits, she felt the manuscript was strong enough to go to Acquisitions. Once the manuscript was acquired and illustrator Camila Carrossine was onboard, we played around a few more times pairing the text with the illustrations. What a fun, collaborative process!


Naomi: What qualities do you look for in a manuscript, making the writer a good fit for your client list?


I’m always looking for books that teach me something about myself or the world I live in. I look for stories that trigger conversations about compassion and growth, and stories that let children experience moments in life they can relate to, or that are a window into the experience one of their peers may have. These moments can be big and life-changing or small and thoughtful – all of these stories are important!


Thanks very much, Norene and Naomi!


Norene Paulson loves words. As a former language arts teacher, she was fortunate to share that love with middle school students in a rural Iowa school district for almost twenty years. Now, as a picture book author, she continues to share her love of words with young readers. Norene's first picture book, BENNY’S TRUE COLORS, illustrated by Anne Passchier (Imprint/Macmillan) released November 17, 2020. Her second book, WHAT’S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?, illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Albert Whitman) is out March 1, 2021. Norene lives on an acreage with her husband and a rescue pup named Ellie. When she isn’t reading or writing, you will find her playing—you guessed it! —word games.


Authors have always been Naomi Davis's superheroes. Growing up in Minnesota, she spent her elementary years pretending she was every character in every book she read. Now a mother, gardener, and beekeeper, Naomi loves meeting readers everywhere she goes and finding out what makes them love the books that sweep them away. A life-long writer and author-fanatic, she has a mild to moderate obsession with slippers, and sings in two philharmonic choirs. Naomi has a passion for helping authors develop stakes, voice immersion, and tension to a story's highest possible potential, and often tweets about strategies for accomplishing those goals on her Twitter @NaomisLitPix

Naomi seeks dynamic, character-driven adult and young adult titles in fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. LGBTQ+ elements and diversity in all fiction are a particular plus. Naomi is particularly passionate about finding new fantasy and sci-fi settings with unique magical structures that surprise the reader and change the rules readers associate with those worlds. Naomi is nonbinary and happy with either pronoun, she/her or they/them.

You can contact Naomi at ndavis@bookendsliterary.com.


Prize offer: For a chance to win a copy of WHAT'S SILLY HAIR DAY WITH NO HAIR?, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on Twitter or Facebook. Deadline to enter is Thursday, February 25.


All posts on Manju's blog promote members of Kidlit Creatives: Create, Query & Support.

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