All through 2020, I’m interviewing the new authors of Perfect 2020 PBs. Today, the spotlight is on Bonnie Clark. Her first picture book, Taste Your Words, illustrated by Todd Bright, debuts with Worthy Kids (a division of Hachette Book Group) on April 7th, 2020.
Tell us about your debut book. The title Taste Your Words is so intriguing!
Thanks, Katelyn. Taste Your Words tells the story of Amera, who’s having a bad day. Her best friend ruined her cupcake and they both said mean things. When Amera brings her bad mood home with her, her mom tells her to
“taste her words.” Amera’s mean words taste like rotten eggs, spoiled milk, and lemons! As Amera realizes that her mean words make her feel bad and others feel worse, she starts saying the kindest, sweetest words she can find.
I like that this story engages a child’s senses while evoking frustrations we all experience. What can you tell us about its journey to publication? Can you describe “The Call ”or “The Email”–that moment you knew that your dreams were about to come true?
My journey to publication was a little unconventional. There were starts and stops along the way but eventually my manuscript for Taste Your Words paired with the illustrations (by my stepbrother!) got some attention by a few agents and publishing houses through a Twitter pitch party. I had a phone call with agent Adria Goetz who had been on my radar for some time. I had critique partners tell me that they thought we would be a good fit, but I had submitted to
her in the past and received a (kind) rejection. When she showed interest in Taste Your Words I was thrilled and signing with her has been a dream come true.
Sounds like a Happily Ever After! How long have you been pursuing this dream?
I have always enjoyed writing, but I’ve been actively writing for children for about 5 years. I fell in love with picture books when my kids were much smaller. We would go to the library and bring home a big bag of books to read. It’s such a magical moment to share a book with a child. I wanted to be a part of that magic for other families.
From what age did you consider yourself a writer? What spurred you to pursue this path professionally? What other fields do you work in (professionally or otherwise)?
I have a business degree from Georgia Tech, but the only classes I remember enjoying were my English/writing classes and one on Shakespeare. I guess I didn’t pursue writing professionally because I didn’t think that was an adequate profession. So, I was an over-educated and under-prepared for the toughest job of my life- stay at home mother to three kids (ages 3 and under!). I can remember a pivotal moment for me when I began calling myself a writer. I had joined a kid lit critique group and was actively pursuing writing for children. I took my kids to see our favorite picture book author/illustrator Mo Willems at the art museum in Atlanta. We stood in a long line to get his signature in his latest Elephant and Piggie book and my son was especially excited to see him in person because he loves to draw. When we finally reached Mo, my son said to him, “I want to be an artist when I grow up.” I will never forget Mo looking directly at my son and saying, “You already are an artist.” The moment that was intended for my son, became the permission I needed to start calling myself a writer. Thanks Mo!!
Aw, that’s wonderful. Sometimes we do need “permission” to accept a calling. So, now that you *are* a writer (even an author!), what do you like to write about in general? What are your preferred genres/target audiences?
I prefer to write about social/emotional topics where kids can see themselves, recognize the emotions that the story evokes and remember the lesson as they get older and when they need it most.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
A typical day for me starts early at 5:15. I like to get up before I wake my kids up so that I can enjoy my coffee, read and meditate (spiritual exercise). Once the kids are off to school I head to the gym (physical exercise). And when I get back home I write (mental exercise). I take breaks to throw in a load of laundry or clean, and before long the school bus is pulling up to the house. Afternoons are full of piano lessons, gymnastics, theater & jiu-jitsu and then I start dinner. We try to have dinner together as a family around the table as often as possible. Once the kids are in bed I make a cup of tea and read for hours until I’m sleepy.
What feeds your creativity as an artist? Or helps you out of that “funk”?
Reading always feeds my creativity as an author- it doesn’t even matter what genre I’m reading! I also love to do hand-lettering. I enjoy making words beautiful (literally and figuratively) and it satisfying to see an idea through to completion on a page. Drawing & hand-lettering are very therapeutic. I drink coffee all day and switch to tea at night.
What tips do you have for other creatives?
Be creative! If you love to write, write! If for no one else but you. I heard a quote once that I love by Earl Nightingale, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Keep writing, keep creating art, no time is wasted creating things you love.
So true. Now, back to your debut, with that burning question: How did the idea of (title) come to you? Do you remember your lightbulb moment?
The idea for Taste Your Words originated with myself and my children when they were much smaller and learning how to use their words to communicate. Inspired by Proverbs 16:24, I would tell them to taste their words before they let them out of their mouth. I also remember when I verbalized the idea to my critique group at a SCBWI Conference and they loved it ! I came home from that conference and wrote the first draft. The original title was The Yucky
Words, but after some time editing the manuscript, my agent suggested changing the title to Taste Your Words, which I agreed was more appealing and marketable.
Your dream of publishing your very first picture book is about to come true! What’s next? What do you still hope to accomplish in the future?
I have been waiting for 2020 for so long and I am beyond excited about the release of my debut Taste Your Words in the Spring! I am also thrilled that I have a second picture book coming out in August of this year as well entitled Catching Thoughts.
Any promotional events we can look forward to meeting you at?
I will be attending the SCBWI WIK 2020 conference in March where I will be a participant in the writer’s intensive with the one and only Jane Yolen! I am also excited to (hopefully) be signing copies of TYW! I also have a book launch at my local bookstore FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA on April 4th.
You can find out more about me, my books, author visits & resources on my website and social media accounts:
Wonderful, Bonnie. Congratulations, and here’s to a long and fruitful career!
These days, preorders are vital to a debut author’s career. To support Bonnie Clark and her new release, preorder Taste Your Words through any of the following retailers: