Patti Brassard was born in upstate NY in 1962 but moved with her military family to Virginia when she was 11 years old. She always loved art in school but never gave a thought to making it a career until she started college in 1980. With no idea where a Fine Arts degree would take her, she instead studied Media Arts Advertising and after graduation, started her own graphic design company so that she could continue to be a work-at-home mother to her daughter Nikki.
It was while Nikki was learning to read that Patti mocked up her first book aimed at teaching pre-readers the alphabet. She only shared it with her daughter and her kindergarten class. It was very well received but Patti never pursued the project any further.
Over the following years Patti opened a paint-it-yourself pottery studio and got back to being involved in more artistic endeavors. In 2010, she remarried and added Jefferson to her name: Patti Brassard Jefferson. They moved to the Florida Keys with their two rescued dogs, Marley & Mollie, and she opened an art gallery.
While in Florida, she decided to dust off unfinished children's book project that she had put on the shelf. It had started as a Valentines card years before and had morphed into the beginning of a book. Over the next 2 years, Patti worked on the illustrations and adding more pages. It was finished in October 2012 but she had no idea what the next step was. A friend and fellow author had just self-published a novel so Patti did some research. She decided to start a Kick Starter campaign to raise the funds necessary to self-publish her book. The campaign launched in April of 2013 and funded 30 days later. She signed with Halo Publishing International and the book was released in June!
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here today Patti. What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Patti: My husband I both work from home which is great because we each have flexible schedules and that certainly makes planning fun things a bit easier. On the other hand, we realized that we each needed our own space as well. I converted the dining room into my writing & drawing space. Now at the end of a work day, we can meet in the living room and say, "How was YOUR day?"
VS: How long have you been writing?
Patti: The first story I remember writing was actually an adventure about 5 kids in the neighbourhood who had a tree house/club house. I was 8 years old and it was written on pink paper. Throughout the years, I have written for small local publications and newsletters but it was definitely just a hobby. When my daughter was born, I started writing & illustrating stories for her to help with her reading. How Long Will You Love Me? is the first book that I have had published.
VS: What inspired you to write your book (if this is a personal story about you, please share about the decision to open up about your life)?
Patti: I heard someone say "I promise I will love you until your freckles fall off." I thought that was a sweet sentiment and I created a short rhyme & an illustration for a Valentine's Day card from it. Over time, I would think of other funny improbabilities like that and write them down until the illustration also popped in my head. Unconditional, endless love is something that everyone - regardless of age, gender, religion, or nationality - wants. It's a global topic and where better to start than with the connection between a child and a parent?
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Patti: I wish I was a bit more structured in my writing routine but I think writing 28 pages of a children's book vs a 250+ page novel leaves me with a more flexible writing schedule. I don't have a set routine per se but because of that, I do set self-imposed deadlines. Being both the author and the illustrator means that I have to say - "OK, I need to have x number of illustrations sketched out by this date" and then I need to hold myself accountable. I talk to a lot of people who are trying to get the book in their head completed and thats the advice I give them. Set a small deadlines and then figure out how to make that happen.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Patti: I am super fortunate to have a great circle of cheerleaders which include my husband, my parents, best friends and, of course, my daughter. They all were instrumental in pushing me to get the book out there and continue to help me promote it. I think its made a big difference for me. If you are a writer, however, and you don't have a support system within your inner circle, go find one elsewhere. Join a writing group or seek out other writers through social media. Whatever it takes. Don't let the lack of family support stop you from getting your book done. I said it helps. I didn't say it was impossible without it.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Patti: How Long Will You Love Me? was released on Halo Publishing at the end of June 2013. It starts out with the question and is a collection of rhyming, reassuring pages of how long endless love really might be. The illustrations are bright and funny and you get to see characters doing things that could never happen. The sight of a whale and a dolphin laying in the sun tanning is something so silly that small children & adults alike are liable to giggle. There is a running challenge of finding the heart hidden in each illustration and a bit of grown up humour for the adults. The sign above the bunny blues band that says "Karrot-oke every Sunday" still makes me laugh every time.
VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book(s)?
Patti: As the illustrator & author, the biggest challenge is to synch the two pieces. If I was only writing the story, I doubt that I would worry about adding a visually complex element. I would just write and let the illustrator figure it out. Being the illustrator at the same time, means that maybe I adjust the story to fit my illustration style and that might not be good for the story. The personal challenge is in writing the best story that I can and then pushing myself as the illustrator to make the story work as written.
VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Patti: Love is a pretty strong and yet extremely fragile emotion. I think that we all have been in a relationship of some sort where we either answered or asked the question. The overall message of reassuring someone that truly impossible things would have to become completely possible before love would cease is what the book is all about. I have people who send me pictures of their kids reading this book - maybe while sitting in their mother's lap - and it gives me goose bumps to see their faces. Helping in anyway to solidify that bond is humbling.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Patti: I have 2 books scheduled to be released by Halo Publishing International in 2014. The first is called Stu's Big Party and is the story of a hippo who finds out that it really doesn't matter what your friends look like on the outside, they are all the same on the inside. Its a really cute book that came to me just as I was drifting to sleep around midnight one night. I ended up getting up and writing the whole first draft of the story complete with rough sketches until about 4:30 am. I am in the process of reworking the illustrations and editing the text with a release date of March.
The second book is Forever and a Day, will be a sequel of How Long Will You Love Me? and will be released in August 2014.
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Patti: Involving your kids in the process of writing and publishing is a great opportunity to teach them some real core principles in life. Our society is so scattered this days and it seems that it is impossible to focus. Maybe in the time that you have set aside for un-interupted writing/creating, you can offer your children the same thing. Make it a creative work time or focused time for them as well.
Of course, if you are writing childrens' books and you have a built in audience to test the flow of your story, thats bonus! Test it out, see what holds their attention and what makes them laugh.
The bottom line of course is to adjust your schedule when you need to but you owe it to your kids, yourself and the universe to get the book out of your head. Teach your kids to set goals and work towards them.
VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Patti: Personally, I like to write things to make children (and adults) laugh so the "silliness factor" is a key element for me.
Another important ingredient - even in children's books - is to create a relatable challenge or conflict and then tell the story to resolution. I once wrote some alphabet stories and one featured an octopus that couldn't quite get the hang of tying his shoes since he had so many of them! It was a relatable conflict for a child with funny challenges and a great resolution at the end.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction)
Patti: I think for children what makes a character believable is some sort of commonality. The character can be a an octopus or a frog or hippo but they have to have some sort of characteristic that a children can see themselves sharing.
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Patti: Kids are sponges. They do what they see us do, not what they hear us tell them to do. In order to show our children success, we have to define what success is and then take our kids along on that journey. For me success isn't material possessions or wealth but in failing and moving forward anyway. My daughter is 27 years old now and I'd like to think that she is still watching me move forward and achieving my goals. She has been very successful in many areas of her life and I am proud to have been part of that.
VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?
Patti: How Long Will You Love Me? came out at the end of June this year so it hasn't won any awards yet but it has received a lot of 5 star reviews including one from Reader's Favorite.
VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Book website: www.howlongwillyouloveme.com
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?
Patti: I really started thinking about being a children's book author when my daughter was born. That was 27 years ago. I faced a lot of obstacles but my biggest was myself. Don't be that person. Don't be the person who puts your life on hold because you are afraid of failing or afraid of succeeding. Be fearless for your children. Write. Paint. Sing. Dance. Above all, realize that its never too late. Even if it takes 27 years to find your voice... it's never too late to become fearless.
Title of Book(s): How Long Will You Love Me?
Author & Illustrator: Patti Brassard Jefferson
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
Genre: Children's book
ISBN Number: ISBN: 9781612441658
Publication Date: June 2013
BONUS: Each page also has a heart drawn in it somewhere. While they are not very difficult to find, the search will also take the reader through some of the other subtle jokes such as a banner behind the bunny band that promotes Carrot-oke or a whale who's reading Moby Dick on the beach.
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