Our next subject “In the Muse” comes to us from Southern California. Beth Navarro is a talented writer, blogger and children’s book author. In fact, Beth is one of the first authors that came on board Be There Bedtime Stories back in 2009. We are thrilled to sit down and chat with her about her creative process and specifically about her venture into bringing one of her picture books, “Grambo”, to print.
Welcome, Beth. Shall we begin with an update on the release of Grambo in print form? I hear March is the month? Can you speak to the experience of ushering Grambo into the print space?
Yes, March 26th! Grambo day is almost upon us. The journey of Grambo from idea to e-book to printed page has been amazing. I have to thank you (Be There Bedtime Stories) for taking the leap and believing in me and my stories. Making Grambo an ebook/webstory on BTBS was such a good experience. I love the collaborative environment. And now taking it to the print level is a dream come true. Thank you for making this possible as well. It’s also been quite a learning experience.
I dove into the deep waters of self-promotion. So much of the marketing depends on the author, whether you are published by a large publisher or a small publisher or self-publishing. I went all in. I learned as much as I could about it by researching how other authors effectively did it. And I must say I’m having fun with the self-promotion! Grambo is about a boy who finds out his grandma is not your average grandma. She’s a secret agent! Grandmas rock. I loved the opportunity to spread the message of Grambo. Specifically the fact that grandma’s can be extraordinary people in our lives. What a great thing to celebrate? This has been a lot of hard work and I can’t wait for Grambo to be out in the world.
I’m always interested in the birth of an idea so I often ask authors if the character comes to them first or if a situation or setting is the jumping off point. Can you speak to both “Kiko the Hawaiian Wave” and “Grambo”?
Both stories were written as gifts for family members (Well before illustrations were added). That’s not the way it works with everything I write, but it happens to be true in these cases. The characters came first. I wrote Kiko for a boy who lives in Hawaii. Surfing is obviously part of the culture and my weird brain jumped to, “What if a wave could talk? What would their journey and struggles be?” I wrote Grambo for my Grandma Jean. Her nickname had always been Grambo. It was too good of a title to pass up. The story seemed to write itself. A secret agent Grandma! Of course!
Do you find yourself with many versions of your stories or is a usually a matter of changing words or phrases in the rewriting process? And to follow that up, do you have a trusted person that reads your early versions to give you feedback? Are you your own editor?
Yes. There were revisions upon revisions. Writing, really, is rewriting. With children’s books especially, every word counts. I do have a writing critique group. There always comes a point in the writing process for me where I have absolutely no perspective. I don’t know what I’d do without my trusted readers! Another thing that is a must in my revising process is that I read my manuscripts out loud, whether the story is a few pages or hundreds of pages. You get a much more objective view of your story.
I know there are so many children’s book authors out there looking for an artist to illustrate their story. You had the good fortune of finding 2 very talented artists in Betsy Hamilton and Cami Abel. Can you chart that journey of finding the right artist and how you knew they could bring your characters to life?
I feel so lucky to have Cami (Kiko the Hawaiian Wave) and Betsy (Grambo) as the illustrators. Not only are they talented, but their style perfectly fit each story. Cami is a beach loving surfer. Her love of the ocean and whimsical style brought such depth to the work. And Betsy’s cool, animated style couldn’t fit Grambo better. I loved getting texts from her saying, “I’m seeing Grambo in night-vision goggles. Maybe lasers! Parachuting for sure.” They both just got the stories perfectly. I can’t thank them enough for bringing the stories to life.
My situation was unique in that most publishing houses find the illustrator without consulting you and you aren’t part of that process from what I understand. With BTBS, we were all part of the process together. I got to see sketches and give input on the illustrations. It was thrilling.
I’ve seen you read your books aloud. You are an exceptional storyteller. Now, you have a background in acting. Can you tell me if you pull from your acting chops when you read children’s books aloud or do you find that the storyteller in you just comes out naturally? Can you speak to folks who find it hard to access their inner storyteller? What does that word, storyteller, mean to you?
Thank you! What a compliment. Acting definitely prepared me for being a storyteller and a writer. I actually wrote a blog about this recently. Storytelling is what I really loved about acting, but something about acting was always a struggle for me. It wasn’t until I started writing that I realized that acting had just been the wrong medium. Writing tapped into something that was always out of reach with acting. But what I learned from acting about story and world building I use all the time still.
If you are trying to find your inner storyteller, listen. What speaks to you? What inspires you? Let that drive you. I know for me when I read a story aloud to kids (or to anyone) something happens. The story takes over and I become more animated. I think I can be a bit shy, but I don’t feel that way when I am storytelling.
For someone to call me storyteller is the highest compliment. Storytellers reflect the truth. Storytellers spread messages of love, courage, beating the odds, defeating hardships, etc. Storytellers change people. That is what I want to do. Kiko’s message is simple: Any obstacle you can overcome. Anything you want, you can achieve it. And Grambo? Grandma’s are truth tellers of their own. Listen to them. Appreciate them. Adventure with them.
Well said! Ok fellow storyteller. Let’s end this Q and A by tickling your inner storyteller. If Grambo were to meet Kiko the Hawaiian Wave on a beach one day, how would that conversation begin?
Grambo (with surfboard in hand of course) would walk right up to Kiko, “Psst! Care to do some undercover work?” The she’d hop on Kiko the wave, infiltrate the surfing community and they’d nab the international thieves, The Surfing Bandits. Hey, I smell a sequel to Point Break…
Yes! The wheels are turning. I’m on pins and needles! Are there any other future projects ruminating about your creative space? Anything we have to look forward to from the pen of Beth Navarro?
So many projects, so little time! The main thing I am working on now is finishing up a young adult sci-fi adventure novel called “Abel”. It’s almost ready for me to go look for my soul mate agent. Wish me luck!
Not to mention my daughters are itching for a Grambo part two. We shall see. ☺
Thank you so much for talking with us, Beth. Good luck on the Grambo launch and all of your future endeavors. I’ll encourage all of our readers to save the date. Grambo becomes a print book, a REAL printed BOOK! Join all of Grambo’s friends and fans on launch day, March 26th.
Here’s the lowdown on Grambo’s big day:
To get all the up to date information about Grambo visit her on her Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/Grambobethnavarro
Prizes galore, when you buy on launch day March 26:
Buy four or more books: You get one more book free! Plus the prizes below.
Buy three books: You get an 8X10 Grambo illustration print autographed by the illustrator, plus the prizes below.
Buy two books: You get a gift certificate for one Be There Bedtime Stories online book, plus the prize below.
Buy one book: You get a discount! (It will already be shown on the amazon link.)
To receive your prize, email your amazon receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15th with the address where you’d like your prize. You will receive it by June 1st 2014.
Beth Navarro lives and writes in Sierra Madre, California. www.bethnavarro.com