My guest today is Erin Frankel, author of Free Spirit Publishing's new series, THE WEIRD SERIES. I'm so delighted to have Erin here, not only because the subject of her books - bullying - is important and of deep interest to me personally, but also because I'm so pleased to host a fellow Free Spirit author. I'm very proud of my place in the Free Spirit family: this is a publisher that truly cares about kids and their development.
Erin's books are a superb new addition to the roster, as you'll see in the interview. I love the fact that she includes the points of view of the bully and the bystander in her series, because this sheds more light on a complex issue.
Hi Erin. I'm so happy to have you here! How did you come to write the Weird Series books? Were the stories inspired by something you experienced or were they based on the experiences of someone you care about?
It was really a combination of both. As a mother and teacher, I was very much aware of the pain and struggles that children face when it comes to bullying. I could empathize, given my own childhood experiences with bullying, and hoped to make a difference by sharing what I had learned. I’ve always wanted to write for children and couldn’t think of a better way to get kids thinking and talking about bullying from an early age than a picture book. I wanted to write stories that would help children feel prepared to stand up for what is right and stay true to who they are.
Your illustrator, Paula Heaphy, is a lifelong friend. Did you propose the series together? Did you struggle to find a publisher?
Paula and I have worked as a team from the very beginning. We shared the same dream of making a difference when it came to bullying and we both had our own personal experiences with bullying to draw from. In fact, collaborating on books that will help bring healing has been a very healing process for both of us. Given the subject matter, we both felt a tremendous responsibility to get the right message out through story and art. We didn’t submit Weird! until we felt confident that we had something special in our hands. My words inspired her art, and her art inspired my words, and it was just a wonderful collaboration throughout. When we had a polished dummy, we started sending it out to our publisher wish list. We had our share of rejections, but most came with a touch of positive feedback. Still, I think we both pinched ourselves when Free Spirit reached out to us. They were the ones with a little star next to their name on our wish list. I guess you could say it was our ‘dream home’ for the story.
Did you write all three books before submitting, or did you put together a proposal?
We only submitted the first book, Weird!. The idea for a series came up later in our discussions with Free Spirit. We proposed a series to help children look at bullying from all three perspectives: the target, the bystander, and the child doing the bullying. I knew when we were working on Weird! that Luisa’s story had many layers to it. I wanted to know what motivated the other characters to act the way they did and help readers reflect on the changes that had to happen in order for all three main characters to get back to being themselves. That is how the other two books in the series, Dare! and Tough!, were born.
Are you working on something new in either fiction or nonfiction?
Yes! Paula and I are in talks with Free Spirit about creating more books in their Bully Free Kids line featuring boys as the main characters. I am also trying to find a home for a coming-of-age middle grade novel, which is very dear to my heart. And last but not least, I am polishing up a patriotic picture book written in verse. Poetry is my secret passion. Oops…guess it’s not a secret anymore!
Please tell us how we can learn more about you and the series.
You can go to our book series website: www.theweirdseries.com. The website has information about each book, author and illustrator bios, useful bullying resources, and a direct link to Free Spirit’s website where you can read more about the books. If you like what you read, orders can be placed through Free Spirit, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. The books are out in bookstores on September 1st. We love to get feedback and hope readers will reach out to us through our website as well.
Thanks so much, Janet. I’ve really enjoyed this and appreciate the chance to share what has been a very special and meaningful project with you and your readers.