Hello, fellow book-lovers!
This past couple of weeks I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with publisher Sam Cabbage of A Belletristic Wander and her authors Kyle Duffy & Nerris Nassiri to bring you this exclusive feature. I was able to interview them all and all the answers to my questions were so passionate and eloquent i couldn’t help but tear up as i’m sure you will too! I am so beyond grateful for this wonderful opportunity and i hope i do their stories justice. I’ve attached some illustrations from the books and shared how you can view the artists other work. I myself have made a donation to their Kickstarter page, and i hope once you see the beauty in their work and the genuine kindness and need they have to put good into this world, that you will donate too!
First up is my conversation with Sam Cabbage, owner and creator of A Belletristic Wander: Publishing Enduring Children’s Books.
1) What made you want to start a publishing company?
“I think I always have, I just didn’t know I could. Books are the most amazing things in the world to me. I have often felt stuck, as I only can really understand my own experiences. I can never truly be another person and see and experience the world from their soul. Books are the closest thing to this. My mother spent hours at a time reading to me long before I can even remember. So even in my earliest memories, authors have always been almost immortal. In fact, in a way they are. My favorite authors who have touched me deeply, like Victor Hugo, died long before I was born. To be able to influence people, to change lives, to create understanding and give people the insights into each others differences, I do not know if there is a greater opportunity to give some of yourself to the world! To find stories that possess these qualities and have this potential, and help them to exist and to give them that opportunity to be there for kids that need them, that is what I have really always wanted to do! I mean, what if nobody had ever published Robert Munsch’s books, like Mud Puddle, or Love You Forever. Books have made me who I am, they have helped me so much in life. I would love to be able to do that for others. Lots of others.”
2) What draws you to children’s books?
“Picture books are a fairly new thing when it comes to books. The technology to be able to print affordable books full of color illustrations, hasn’t been around that long. Having read around 40,000 different picture books, I am excited about this relatively new art form! I think there is a lot of room for growth and exploration, as we get to witness the very first wave of some types of picture books. What fascinates me the most is when people really take them seriously as literature. They aren’t “just for kids” and so don’t matter. The small nuances that make a picture book good literature are just as important as those literary aspects in a novel. I am so excited to see this art form gaining more and more respect. Books like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, are not limited to just a young audience. Anybody who reads that wordless picture book, can feel the emotions he portrays in it just as much as if they read a novel or watched a movie that was so well done it succeeded in moving them.”
3) How did you meet your authors and illustrators?
“I read a post of Nerris Nassiri’s on the internet, about his book. He described it as an orphan who builds a hot air balloon. I love the feel of not having much, and finding a way to create what you want anyway, and so I was hooked from the very beginning.
I have always loved a good rhyme. And sadly, there aren’t very many children’s books written in good rhyme. Along with my love of children’s books, I have also become rather picky about them. When I came across Kyle Duffy’s rollicking poetry, with hilarious twists and turns in it, I felt like I had found gold! Actually better than gold. What is gold compared to a good book? I have lots of kids (understatement) and so have been reading Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, etc. to my youngest ones almost every night for close to two decades straight. There is little that excites me more than when we get another book that entertains that very very young crowd. Like some people wait for the Super Bowl, I wait for Mo Willem’s next release. To have found another author like them. Let’s just say it is worth trying to raise $18,000 to start this publishing company, just to be able to have another truly great rhyming book for the very young, to choose from when I want to snuggle up with my 3 year old and read.
Mary Manning befriended my when I first started exploring the mysterious world of publishing, and started editing manuscripts like crazy. This gave me much needed experience and I am grateful to those hundreds of authors who let me edit their stories! I think I first fell in love with her artwork when I saw her piece “The Cheesemaker”.
Her art has such a real feel to it. Our lives (in the culture I am in here in the US) get so caught up in portraying a certain image to others, that I really appreciate her grasp of “just how things are”, the authenticity. She doesn’t try to make them a certain way to appeal to the public, but instead draws what is in such a way that we realize that it is the less than glamorous aspects of her characters, that we relate to and truly love. My other favorite piece of hers is “Sisters”.
She so perfectly captures that emotion of truly knowing each other, all the flaws and the good and the bad, way deep down inside, and just loving all of each other.
The other thing I love about her artwork is that she is not scared of pushing reality.. if you browse her amazing pictures, you will see her stretching the limits of imagination. This is just what Kyle Duffy does with his rhymes, and so when he too fell in love with her artwork, it was a perfect match. His rhymes appeal to even the very young, and the brightness of Mary Manning’s pictures is going to be so good in a picture book coupled with Kyle Duffy’s rollicking rhymes!
The first illustration she has finished, turned out even above my expectations. She has made Rumtum so real, so easy to relate to, and at the same time making us feel better for our uniqueness. But she has also added her touch of whimsy, that is so tantalizing to the imagination.
I have over 50 cousins, all talented in their own unique ways. Nerris Nassiri and I were searching for just the right illustrator to give Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon the exact feel we wanted. Different styles of illustrations can decide the mood of a story so strongly, we wanted just the perfect one. Then the below image came across my FaceBook page, (as I follow most of my cousins).
Without telling Nerris that I even knew the artist at all, I sent it to him, along with a bunch of other samples of artists for him to consider. He too fell immediately in love with it. Here was the exact feeling we were looking for. The exact feeling his words were trying so hard to convey. There was no question about it. Jessica White was the illustrator for his book.
I cannot express my gratitude enough for these amazing illustrators also falling in love with the books, and agreeing to join us in this incredibly enjoyable creative process.”
You can find more of Jessica White’s artwork here: Jessica White Artwork
4) Can you share with us a bit about the Kickstarter you’ve started and how people can invest and share with others?
“I know too well how it feels to not be able to afford books. Almost all of the books I have read have come from libraries. Libraries make it so that books that appeal to those who may not be able to afford books, can afford to exist. They not only give the freedom of knowledge to all, but the preserve the diversity in our literature and media, to benefit all. The big reviewers that help books become widespread in libraries, like to only recommend books that are hard cover and will have enough copies printed that libraries will be able to easily find them. We need to print at least 1,000 copies of each of these titles in order to qualify. So that is exactly what the kickstarter is for. All of the money (and then some) will go directly towards the costs of making these books, (and the short film of Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon).
We would love your help in helping us to reach our goal, so that we can get these books into libraries. We are also in the process of coordinating with Charities that provide children in need with books. Some of the rewards are specifically for donating books, but you can also choose for us to donate any book you pre-order, to a child in need, and we will send you a signed postcard of the book, to show our thanks.
We would also love it if you would share this message as much as possible. The most effective way to help with a kickstarter is contacting friends and family individually. If everybody that reads this, and believes in this cause, will contact those closest to them, and individual ask them to also contribute, even if it is only $1, that is what would help the most.
You can contribute to the kickstarter page here: A Belletristic Wander – Kickstarter
Thank you so much!”
I then had the great honor of interviewing Kyle Duffy, Author of Rumtum the Sailor.
1) Is this your first children’s book? What is your favourite part of the creative process so far?
“Yes, this is my first children’s book. My favorite part is getting to share a story I created with my daughter and with others. I also really love seeing a talented artist like Mary Manning interpret my story in her art.”
2) Where and when did you get the idea for the story and can you tell us a little bit about it?
“It was just over a year ago soon after our daughter was born. We were living in Brussels, and had been reading nursery rhymes to our daughter every day. I had started complaining to my wife about some of the ones in our rotation that I really didn’t like and she challenged me to write my own. Rumtum the Sailor is about a larger-than-life sailor who sets off on an adventure from which it proves difficult to return.”
3) What inspires you the most when it comes to writing?
“I like this question a lot. If I had to pick one thing that inspires me most it would be the prospect of reading my stories to my daughter and any future children we have and inspiring them to start dreaming up stories of their own.”
4) What is it like for you to see your story come to life in the illustrations?
“It’s incredible. Mary’s illustration of Rumtum with his family is up on our homepage now and every time I see it I’m blown away all over again. Seeing someone with a ton of talent take your idea and put their own spin on it is a really cool experience. I never actually pictured what Rumtum’s kids would look like so seeing her bring them to life was really an awe inspiring moment for me.
We plan to donate as many books as we can to children in need throughout the country. I am especially excited to partner with Bernie’s Book Bank in Chicago area where i live now as they provide books to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have their own to read at home on a quarterly basis for 12 years. I love their mission to further a love for reading among this population.”
You can view more of Kyle’s work here: Kyle Duffy Collection
My final interview is with the extremely talented, Nerris Nassiri, Author and Film-maker of Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon.
1) Is this the first children’s book you’ve created?
“Yes! I’ve written many stories before, but this is the first time I’ve gone into actually publishing a book.”
2) What is your favourite part of the creative process?
“Being able to breathe life into a character and portray their joys and struggles for an audience to empathize with. The world needs a lot of empathy right now, and I hope to create characters that can bring more of it around.”
3) What inspired you to write this story and can you tell us a little bit about it?
“Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon is a story about a young boy who builds a hot-air balloon to find his mother, who “went to the stars.” In a way, it’s a letter to my younger self. I had some sad childhood experiences and wanted to portray them in an innocent, sort of dreamy and positive way. We’ve all lost someone, and would do anything to get them back. This story tributes that.
Reviews have been mixed so far, but mostly positive. The story may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s a story i wrote for both children who’ve lost, and adults who lost someone in their childhood. It’s my way of saying, “I understand how you feel. You’re not alone.””
4) You’re also developing a screenplay for Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon, how has that experience been for you?
“Exciting! Film-making is what my hands were built for. Bringing words to a visual medium, being able to work with actors and a creative team, all of it is my favourite kind of experience. I’m hesitant to start really working on everything until funding for our Kickstarter is complete. Kickstarter contributors will get a credit in the film, which seems to be getting a lot of people excited as well!”
You can watch a trailer for the short film adaption here: Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon
Below are some of the beautiful rough draft sketches for Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon.
Nerris had already made other films for some of his other stories which i found to be so touching, he is incredibly talented! You can see more of his work at his webpage: Nerris Nassiri and you can find his short films here:
I would like to again say a huge thank you to Sam, Nerris and Kyle for sharing with me and for allowing me to share their beautiful stories with the world. I implore all of you reading to please visit the Kickstarter page A Belletristic Wander and make a contribution. We need more good in the world, especially for the children and what Sam, Nerris and Kyle are aiming to accomplish just goes above and beyond. I look forward to getting the final copy when both books are published so i can post reviews too! I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first edition of The Author’s Lounge, i can’t wait to bring you all more interviews and stories.