In a world full of ringing cell phones, honking cars and screaming talk show hosts, what’s a person to do to escape the hubbub and appreciate nature? Read FINDING WILD, the debut picture book from fellow EMU, Megan Wagner Lloyd, that’s what! I was lucky enough to get to chat with Megan about her new book, looking for fairies in the forest, deer dancing in circles and all things wild!
JG: What inspired you to write FINDING WILD?
MWL: I’ve always loved spending time outside. Some of my best memories from my childhood include experiences like looking for fairies in the beautiful flower gardens my mom grew, gazing up at the starry sky by the Grand Canyon with my dad, spying on a blue heron that visited a creek behind my house, and walking among the fall colors on the Appalachian trail.
When I had my own kids, I really wanted them to feel connected to the outdoors as well–in big ways, like enjoying hiking and camping and exploring–but also in little ways, like stopping to notice flowers and bugs and just spending time playing outside in the fresh air.
So I think FINDING WILD grew out of my own love for the outdoors and my yearning for my kids, and other kids, to feel the connection and peace and respite that can be found in nature, in what can be a really harsh and stressful world.
Do you have any fun/exciting/scary stories from your own time out in the wild?
One of my favorite fun experiences with the wild lately was when we lived in a rental house right next to a wooded park. We could look right out our back windows at the woods and see red foxes curled up in the sun, white-tailed deer running and eating, the occasional Barred Owl, squirrels and chipmunks dashing around, and many cardinals and other birds. I learned that foxes are usually alone or in pairs, deer sometimes dash around in circles together (I don’t know why!), and chipmunks make a super-cute chirping noise. It was like having a front row seat at a nature show every single day!
One scary thing that happened during that same time was when an absolutely massive tree fell in the middle of the night. It made an incredibly loud rushing and slamming noise, shook our house, and took out several trees on its way down. I woke up thinking that the house was collapsing–that’s how loud and jarring it was (but fortunately it didn’t hit our house!). It was a reminder to me of the raw power of nature.
Were there any major changes from the manuscript you initially submitted to your editor and what we read now? What was the editing process like?
There weren’t any huge changes, but lots and lots of little ones. We shifted some of the lines and were very deliberate about the word choices. Working with my editor, Julia Maguire, was great, because she’s awesome, and she had a wonderful vision for the book from the beginning.
Abigail Halpin’s illustrations are gorgeous and really make you feel like you are out in the wild. What went through your mind when you first saw her illustrations accompanying your words?
But, really, from the first moment I saw Abigail’s initial sketches, I knew I was going to adore her illustrations for FINDING WILD. I absolutely LOVE her work and am so thrilled to be working with her on a second book, FORT-BUILDING TIME, which will come out in the fall of 2017, also with Knopf/Random House. I’ve already seen some sketches for that one, and had a similar YAYYYYY!!!! reaction!
I loved when Elaine Vickers asked this question of Pat Zietlow Miller in a previous EMU’s Debuts interview, so I’m going to steal this question from her Finish this sentence: the perfect reader for this book would be…
Anyone who needs the magic of the outdoors in their life (so pretty much everyone!).
Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. When not writing, Jason zips between Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas. His favorite experiences in the wild include unearthing stegosaurus fossils in Wyoming, handing out snacks to pigs on Pig Island, and swimming in the ocean hoping to run into mermaids. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. Anjelica Huston, if you’re reading this, let’s grab coffee. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)