Today I’m delighted to be interviewing picture book author Lindsey McDivitt in celebration of her debut picture book NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY. Published by Sleeping Bear Press and beautifully illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewe, NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY is an engaging picture book biography of the life of Gwen Frostic. Told with perfect pacing, it’s a celebration not only of the beauty and importance of respecting nature, but also of the strength of living with and overcoming disabilities. This is a must-have book and would make a great addition to any collection. It’s a charming, thoughtful read and I loved it! Now, without further ado, please join me for this special interview with Lindsey with my questions in green to fit the nature theme.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Lindsey and congratulations on your delightful picture book debut. What inspired you to write Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story?
I so appreciate this opportunity, Laura! It’s pretty exciting to see my first picture book in print!
I grew up in Minnesota and my friends and I adored Gwen’s nature inspired greeting cards in high school in the 70’s. They matched our budding interest in the environmental movement so new back then.
When I moved to Michigan about 9 years ago I learned Gwen was from Michigan. When I later learned her printing shop was still open up north I began searching for information about her. The shop looked so fascinating in the brochure I spotted.
I love that you’ve been interested in the environmental movement since your teens and how that early love led you to choose Gwen as the focus of this book. What a great example of following your passion!
Once you decided that you wanted to tell Gwen’s story in picture book form, what was your research process like? Were there any amazing moments where you discovered something completely new to you?
Very quickly I learned that Gwen had surmounted many challenges in her long life and I realized what an amazing role model she could be for both kids and adults. After working with stroke survivors for years in my earlier career, I knew the tenacity and perseverance required to surmount physical disability and Gwen never let it hold her back from her goals.
I was really excited when I learned Gwen Frostic had been recognized in so many ways in her home state of Michigan, especially in an era when women were not encouraged to be business women. Gwen made millions of dollars as an artist! And at the same time she did what she could for our natural world when it was threatened. That was astonishing!
And you have continued that recognition and celebration of Gwen’s amazing life contributions through your book and now it and Gwen are being celebrated yet again- as this amazing billboard you shared on social media attests. It’s the first billboard for a picture book that I’ve ever seen and I love it!
Most of your text is written in creative nonfiction, but on many spreads you also have special text that is set apart in large and colorful fonts. Can you share with us why you chose this distinction?
The special text you mention is mainly direct quotes from Gwen Frostic. The 22 books she wrote and illustrated herself were a gold mine of information. They really gave me a window into her feelings. It was the art director at Sleeping Bear Press that set the quotes apart in such a distinctive style I believe.
Eileen Ryan Ewen’s art invites the reader to step into nature through Gwen’s eyes in such a warm and charming way. What was it like to work with Eileen?
Many people don’t realize that the illustrator is given lots of freedom to interpret the text. Author and illustrator rarely collaborate directly. In fact it’s not encouraged by the publisher. So it was fascinating to finally see first Eileen’s sketches, and then the art in color! I feel so fortunate! They are just magical—really drawing the reader into Gwen’s world.
Yes, Lindsey, that has been my experience as well. And, Eileen did a wonderful job! She was the perfect pick for your story.
Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
There is a nature art activity in the back of the book that I hope kids will try. Also, some beautiful activity sheets are available both at my website and the publisher’s—Sleeping Bear Press.
These are WONDERFUL resources. Be sure to check them out, dear readers!
Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
I do have another picture book biography under contract and I’m working on revisions with that editor. It will hopefully come out in a year or so. And many manuscripts in various states! Some I’m beginning to submit with fingers crossed—both fiction and non-fiction.
Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story is available in all the usual venues. I’d encourage readers to please consider ordering it from their local independent bookstore if it’s not on their shelves.
Oh, yes, I do think it’s important to support our wonderful local indies whenever possible and ordering books through them is a wonderful way to do just that!
Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Lindsey. I wish you the very best and look forward to reading more of your books.
Learn more about Lindsey by connecting on the web:
FINALLY…. a VERY SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY to VISIT WITH LINDSEY!
If you are an educator, scout leader, etc. and are interested a free 20 minute Skype visit for your classroom or group with Lindsey, please indicate so in the comments below. One lucky name will be drawn from the interested parties on Sunday, 8/5/2018 at 10 pm EST so be sure to comment before then. (Must be at least 18 to enter.) Winner will be announced the following week and then I will put you in contact with Lindsey to work out the timing.