Arriving November 2007 will be the children's picture book, Shante Keys and the New Year's Peas, by Gail Piernas-Davenport. It's Gail's first! I recently had the opportunity to ask her a couple questions about her five year journey to get this story published.....
1. Tell us about Shanté Keys and the New Year's Peas! What inspired you to write this story? "Since I am over fifty, I can’t remember for certain how the idea came to me (smile), but I like to write stories that bring people of different cultures together. And for some reason, the idea of exploring the different ways people celebrate New Year's popped into my head. This was 2002 or 2003."
"I began the book about New Year’s traditions in prose. The first, and only, draft of this started with children who had to hide on the floor on New Year’s Eve for safety because of people in the hood shooting guns into the air at midnight. It was terrible. I did not get very far because who wants to read a picture book about children ducking gun fire?"
"But one of the things my family and other African American families always do for New Year's is to eat black-eyed peas for good luck. I started playing around with words that rhymed with peas and realized I could write an entire book with that ending. "
"It became a picture book about Shanté Keys and her search for black-eyed peas for the New Year's dinner when her Grandma Louise forgets to buy them. She asks at the Chinese neighbor's (Miss Lee's), the Scottish grocer's (Mr. MacGhee's), the Mexican chef's (Mr. Ortiz), and an Indian friend's (Hari's) before she finds them at her Auntie Marie's. I performed my book wherever I could--SCBWI retreats, critique open mics, and even the poetry slam at our local McDonald's."
"I received my share of rejections until Albert Whitman bought it in October 2006. The book will be out in November 2007. What a whirlwind!"
2. How does it feel to have your first children's book published? "It's so surreal!"
3. Tell us about your blog, Writing from the Lemonade Stand. "I started my blog to write about turning challenges into opportunities and to celebrate the writing/publishing process. We all have roadblocks to our writing--work, school, family obligations, financial concerns, etc. But I believe we can take the lemons we get and turn them into splendid lemonade. I had two big family health events ... almost back-to-back that could have soured me on trying to write, but instead I turned them into my opportunity to write full-time. I just never would have been satisfied if I hadn't learned how to write for children to try to take advantage of all of the story ideas God keeps sticking in my head!"
Gail, best wishes on your first book, Shante Keys and the New Year's Peas! Be sure to visit Gail's website and blog. Enjoy!