Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with Karen Orloff - author of "I Wanna New Room"

Welcome Karen. I’m so happy you’ve stopped by to give my readers the scoop about your new book.

1. Can you tell us your latest news?

My third picture book, “I Wanna New Room,” illustrated by David Catrow, (G.P. Putnam) came out on Dec. 2. This is the companion book to “I Wanna Iguana” and I’m thrilled it’s finally out.

Great. It should be as big as the “Iguana” book

2. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

When I was just starting out, before I had anything published or had even made a sale, I met Bobbi Katz, a well-published children’s book author and poet. She was very kind to have me over for lunch and looked at some of my work. I was grateful that someone with her experience in the field was willing to help me out. Over the years, we’ve kept in touch, and have shared good news about our sales and publications. When I think of someone who has been a kind of mentor to me, I think of her.

That’s pretty cool. Not every new author gets invited to lunch with a well-established published author.

3. What was your first published title and what was it about?

My first book was “I Wanna Iguana,” (G.P. Putnam, 2004).  It’s written entirely in letters from Alex who wants a pet iguana, to his mom, who is not too keen on the idea.

4. What inspired you to write your first book?
My kids, who were young at the time, wanted a pet and we had some issues with getting a dog or cat because of my husband’s allergies. So, we decided to get two baby iguanas. Even though I wasn’t all that excited about this idea, my kids never tried to convince me with letters. That part was pure fiction.

5. How long did your journey take to publication and what were some significant events along the way?

     In 1987, I left my full-time editing job to stay home with my first child. When I read picture books to him, I started thinking seriously about writing for children myself. I wasn’t an illustrator, however, therefore never thought I could write picture books. So I wrote a middle grade novel! I sent it to a couple of places and got rejected, then put it away, discouraged. A little later, I discovered that lo and behold I could write picture books without illustrating them! I started writing and submitting stories. It took a good ten years before I finally got a “yes!”

Yes. It’s harder than most people know. Some think it’s easy to write a picture book. They have no idea how much hard work goes into each word of a picture book manuscript.

6. Who/what were your sources of inspiration along the way? How did it/ he/she/they help you the most?

 I would say that my writing buddies have been the best source of help and inspiration for me. They are the only ones who understand the hard work involved, the long journey, and are also the only ones who will be brutally honest with me when something isn’t working. They have made me become a better writer and have also kept me going when I felt like I wanted to give up.

7. What was the best thing about getting your first book published?

 Having a professional validate that my work was actually worthy of publication. Walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelves for the first time. And, of course, hearing kids laugh in the right places when I read the book out loud to them!

That is a great feeling so many new writers only dream about. J

8. What was the hardest thing?

Assuming that it would be easy from that point on to sell another book.

Nothing in this business is easy. You must work for everything you get!

9. What is your most recently released book about?

In “I Wanna New Room,” there’s a new baby girl in the house and Alex is annoyed that he is forced to share a bedroom with his obnoxious brother, Ethan, who “sticks crayons up his nose and barks like a walrus.” All he wants is some peace and quiet and a place of his own! Is that too much for a growing boy to ask?

10. How have you changed from your first published book to now?

On good days I am more confident about my writing ability, and on bad days I’m completely frustrated and think I will never sell another story. But mostly I’ve come to learn that publishing is a business, it’s not personal when you get rejected, you have to have a thick skin, and you’ve got to be in it to win it!

How true. That in itself is a valuable lesson for a new writer.

11. What are your current projects?

My fourth picture book, “Talk, Oscar, Please!” comes out in March 2011 from Sterling Publishing. It’s written in rhyme and is about a boy who wishes his dog could truly communicate with him. I’ve also written another in the series of “I Wanna…” books and am keeping my fingers crossed that this one will get picked up.

Great. Sounds like you’ve spent your creative time wisely. J Congratulations on two new books.

12. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love when kids write to me or come up to me at school visits to tell me they like my books. It’s great when they ask when I’ll have another one out! Kids (and their parents, too) are the greatest fans and I am so very appreciative and grateful that I get to write for them. Thank you for reading my books!

13. Bit of wisdom to share:

If you really want to become a published writer, KEEP WRITING, KEEP SUBMITTING, AND DON’T EVER GIVE UP! Even when the years go by and you have a stack of rejection letters, like I have. Keep those letters as a reminder of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

14. And for fun, something that not a lot of people know about you: 

I was so shy as a child that I was afraid to raise my hand, even if I knew the answer.

Thank you for sharing your writing and publishing experiences with us, Karen. Good luck with "I Wanna New Room" and your other picture books. :)


  1. Not giving up is so important!
    I love picture books, and will look into this one!
    Great interview!

  2. Thanks Kelly. Don't forget to check out I Wanna Iguana, too. :)

  3. I think your readers will enjoy a site called MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids. The site has a child interviewing children's authors from around the country. There is an interesting interview with Carolyn Marsden about collaboration.


Fall Frenzy Writing Contest 2020

 I entered this last year and it was a great writing experience. This year’s rules: 1. Choose a fall image from Lydia Lukidis’s blog