Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q&A With Children's Book Author Tanya Valentine

Today's blog is about 'practicing what I preach'. As an author, I have many friends who have their own books out there and I read/review and tell people about them. My twitter bio says I'm about "paying-it-forward" and I believe writers should do that for each other. It is not a contest of who will get more readers or make the most sales. But the past three weeks (and three weeks back in December), you all know I've been competing with other authors to get a children's book published. It really felt strange because I liked other stories I read - but it was about getting the most votes which in some odd way instantly makes the other people 'your adversary'. 

Well, that challenge ends today - but not before I introduce people to someone else in the challenge. Tanya Valentine was one of the front runners in round one and I remember working hard to get up to the top where she and another author resided. We constantly were battling it out back and forth. All along, I knew she had a great story and an even more wonderful inspiration to the story. As a family that has adoption in our history (my little brother was adopted) and as an author who writes about diversity (and Tanya's story is full of that as a white bear adopts a brown bear) - I knew I had an affinity to that story and wanted to share it. 

So today...I welcome one of my "competitors" (silly word) to my blog. Tanya is someone I'll admit to trying my best to get ahead of all through December, but someone I'm glad MeeGenius introduced me to. 

Welcome to my blog, Tanya! 

Aw! Thank you so much, Greg. I am so excited to be a part of your blog! Thank you for inviting me to share my book/adoption story with your readers. 

Tell us about your book. 

Clearly ALL BEARS NEED LOVE is a BRILLIANT, ADORABLE, LIFE-CHANGING picture book that everyone must read! 
   Actually, my little book was inspired by my son’s adoption and is very near and dear to my heart. It is the story of a baby brown bear who arrives at the zoo, all alone and frightened. Against the advice of the other animals in the zoo (especially the camel - who is a real jerk), Mama Polar Bear makes the baby bear part of her family. 

I've read about it here, but please tell readers what inspired you to write it. 

The story sort of “whooshed” through me after we adopted our son, Benjamin. At the time, my husband and I had one biological son and I belonged to a Mom’s club in central Florida. The friends I made in that group were wonderfully supportive and amazingly generous. However, a few neighbors and friends who had previously offered to throw a baby shower stopped calling after we brought Ben home from the hospital. It became clear to us that they were not thrilled with a white family adopting a black child. And once, when Ben and I were checking out at the grocery store, the black cashier mumbled something about (paraphrasing here) how I had no right taking one of their babies. The small-mindedness of some people was shocking and incredibly sad. Even our friends and family who love us and adore Benjamin had questions: how will we explain the adoption to Ben? How will we deal with the reaction of others? What do you do with black hair? I’m certain there will be many more questions down the road. We did not go into an interracial adoption naively, but the reactions and questions from friends, family, and strangers as well as my big, big love for Ben, were the inspiration for the book. 

Can you tell us a little about your past in writing; how long and what you got your started? 

About five years ago, I took a Creative Writing class at the local community college, primarily to get away from the house and kids (any stay-at-home moms reading this will understand the need to escape!), but also because I really enjoyed writing. During that class, I created a character named Creepy Casey, an insanely optimistic and energetic 4th grade outcast. I’m currently working on the second book in this middle grade series. 

What has the MeeGenius Challenge meant to you? 

This is my first writer’s competition and, although it can be daunting to share such a personal story, the reaction of readers has been wonderful. I’ve received amazing emails from complete strangers – some adopted, some who have adopted – sharing their stories and telling me ALL BEARS made they cry. I love making people cry! 
   I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my little bear’s story with so many readers. 

Thanks so much for joining me today, Tanya! I'm really glad I got the chance to share in this experience with you. 

And I ask everyone to click HERE and read Tanya's story and get some more votes in on this final day! (But my readers better not put her over me!    ) 

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