Hi, friends! It's been a minute, hasn't it? Things have been busy around here! I'm guessing for you, too! But I'm so excited to feature another PB23Bunch Member! If you missed last month's post, then you might not know that I'm a member of a debut author group with picture books releasing in 2023. It's been so awesome to be part of a group of people going through the same thing I am, and I highly recommend participating in a debut group!
This month, I'm super excited to chat with Marietta Apollonio, author-illustrator of the upcoming JACK THE LIBRARY CAT. So join me in welcoming Marietta!
Hi Marietta! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?
When I was a kid, after running around outside, bike riding through the neighborhood, and watching cartoons, I spent a lot of time drawing from comic books and creating characters. In ‘98 I attended an art college in Boston thinking I wanted to be an animator (in the times of VHS), but ended up really wanting to be a picture book illustrator. I wrote random stories, but never thought that I could write and illustrate. It took me almost 20 years working in different fields (selling mattresses, sign artist at Trader Joes, managing a graphic design firm, co-owning a co-op gallery) to get to a place where I could finally sit down and put it all together. In 2016 I became a stay at home mom. Accumulating picture books for my son and reading to him everyday, reminded me how much I had wanted to create my own books. Still having this creative idea that I loved and had wanted to do, but had always told myself I didn’t have time.
I went to my first writer’s workshop in 2018, met writers and illustrators, began attending more workshops, retreats, watching webinars, and joining critique groups. In 2020 I joined Storyteller Academy to workshop a story about a cat I was working on. I couldn’t remember how to put a book dummy together, and forgot most of what I learned in college. Once I had a stack of versions of that dummy done, I decided to start querying agents with it, while also writing other stories. People say that querying is hard. They’re right. It is. But it also made me hopeful because when I got requests for more work, even though those didn’t pan out, I thought, well, there must be something here. In 2021 I entered PBParty as an author-illustrator, and got a spot as a finalist that March, signed with my agent (super star Jemiscoe Chambers-Black at ABLA) that April. We went out on submission with JACK THE LIBRARY CAT immediately. He found a home that October with Albert Whitman. And as I’m writing this out, I’m still thinking, what just happened over the last 22 years? Haha!
That is so awesome! I love that your journey came back to picture books. Sometimes our dreams take some detours, but so wonderful to get back to it. And congrats on your PBParty success! I love that so much. Really cool that you went out on sub right away. So what inspired your debut book?
My main character, Jack, is actually inspired partly by a real life cat named Max. This intrepid feline, who was not a stray, would leave his owners house daily to visit the nearby college campus. Often he was found in the library. If you google him, you’ll find articles and the sign on the campus library door that asks students/staff not to let him into the library. Poor guy. I took that notion of a cat who just really really wanted to be in a library, and thought about the different reasons that might be. And voila! JACK THE LIBRARY CAT was born.
That's so awesome! I love taking inspiration from true stories too. I hadn't ever heard about Max and will definitely look him up. Your book sounds so wonderful. What message would you like for your readers to walk away with?
We all know that literacy is so important for kids. But not all of us are comfortable practicing our reading with people. I know I wasn’t as a kid. I was always petrified that I’d mess up, pronounce something wrong, miss words. That someone would laugh at me. One of the big themes in JACK THE LIBRARY CAT is not only literacy, and the importance of libraries, but how animals can play a huge role in kids building confidence in themselves when reading. Animals don’t judge. They don’t laugh. So, that was a huge part of writing a story about a stray cat who loves story time, sees the library as a home, and how he manages to help kids and endear himself to the library staff.
I love that so much! So, when does JACK hit shelves?
Yay!! That will be here before you know it. Where can we follow you online?
Perfect! Thank you so much for joining me today, Marietta! I had a blast chatting and cannot wait for JACK THE LIBRARY CAT to hit shelves!
Marietta is generously offering a a piece of original art to one lucky reader! To enter:
For bonus entries:
Tag 2 friends in THIS Tweet
Comment on this blog post
Good luck! Winner will be announced on Twitter May 5th.
About Marietta Apollonio:
About PB 23 Bunch
The PB23Bunch is a group of 12 authors and illustrators with Picture Books debuting in 2023. We cannot wait to get our books in your hands!!