I don’t know when I first met Alison Formento, but I know we’ve been seated next to each other at more than one New Jersey conference/festival because we are both New Jersey folk. She’s an excellent person to sit next to; Alison knows stuff! And her books have awesome covers, which means you wouldn’t mind staring at them all day long. When we first sat next to each other, Alison had one book out, THIS TREE COUNTS! Now there are two, with a third on the way.
I wish I had foresight to sense publishing trends, but nature has always been a big part of my writing—and life. I once wrote a story about a family of trees for a writing assignment in elementary school. THIS TREE COUNTS! was created from a 10-line poem I’d written about a glorious old tree I often hike past in a local nature preserve. My editor at Albert Whitman had rejected two earlier stories I’d sent her, but encouraged me to submit again and mentioned they were looking for environmentally themed stories for the very young. I expanded that short tree poem into story, which became THIS TREE COUNTS!
A scoop of honey-vanilla ice cream inspired me to write THESE BEES COUNT! even before Sarah Snow had been chosen to illustrate my tree book. The ice cream shop was promoting honey ice cream to help bees, which were and still are disappearing due to Colony Collapse Disorder. It might have been brain freeze from eating ice cream, but I definitely had a light-bulb moment and jotted down notes for my bee book idea while enjoying that honey cone.
Since that first book, you’ve had a board book and a sequel. Are more titles on the way?
I’m hard at work (and enjoying every saltwater moment) on THESE SEAS COUNT!, which features the same characters from my earlier books and will be out in 2013. This time Mr. Tate and his students are at the beach. As with the earlier titles, I’m thrilled that Sarah Snow will be illustrating this one, too.
What has your experience working with a smaller publisher like Albert Whitman been like?
Great! That’s the short and truthful answer. Their support and guidance has been immeasurable from editing the book to publicity and marketing—it’s comfortable and hands on, right down to introducing me to booksellers and librarians.
What were some of your favorite books as a young reader? What literary character would you have liked for your own friend?
Early on, my favorite books were THUMBELINA and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. I thought Thumbelina and Max would be great friends if they could meet. And I so wanted a tiny Thumbelina to keep close and carry around, like some kids keep a frog in their pocket. I also read and reread all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, especially THE LONG WINTER. I imagined spending a summer with Laura at her family’s home. I love Laura!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on endnotes for THESE SEAS COUNT! and several new picture book ideas. I’m also revising a young adult novel. I enjoy writing different genres, which is sometimes a challenge, but it keeps my writing life fun and interesting.
Alison loves sharing her books at schools, libraries, bookstores, and festivals. Visit her website to learn more about Alison, her books, and to see a buzzing book trailer for her new book THESE BEES COUNT!