Molly Nero loves to sing, dance and read. She spent over 18 years teaching elementary school. Reading to her own children, she was inspired to write. The second book in the Smarty Pig book series Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror releases in Spring 2012.
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Molly. To get things started, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Molly: My family has to come first. My daughter is a sophomore in high school, so the realization that she will be off to college in a couple of years is looming overhead now. I try to write during the day since I am not working at this time, so when the kids come home from school, I’m available to them. My husband is retired and helps keep things going around the house, so it’s a blessing to not have work because I finished not only Smarty Pig, but the 2nd in the series and have begun writing the 3rd one also. It’s not uncommon to find me writing at all hours of the night either. I’m a person who will get up at 4am just to work in the peace and quiet.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Molly: I began Smarty Pig seven years ago. One night after I read to my son, the idea for Smarty Pig began in my thought. I went to the computer and just began to write while the rest of my family continued their Christmas preparations and songs from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blaring on the tv filled my ears. That truly was the beginning.
VS: What inspired you to write?
Molly: I have been inspired by many authors over the years. The ability to engage a child’s imagination, to captivate an audience of 4th grade boys and girls, or to develop a web of interrelated characters that all connect some way at the end of the story were all things that inspired me when reading to my children, my students or just myself.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Molly: I’m up at 5:30am to start the day watching the Pink Panther with my daughter and 2 dogs snuggled up in 1 chair. COFFEE! Get both my kids off to school. Check on my mother who has her own house downstairs. Get on my treadmill to clear my thoughts listening to KLOVE radio. Then my husband and I discuss what the day will bring, and I’m on my computer writing. Some days I will work on only one story. Other days my mind jumps to ideas for other books. I’ve learned to just roll with it. The one thing I must have is a window to look out of while I’m writing. The endlessness of the sky reminds me that ideas are just as endless.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Molly: My family is thrilled with my writing! My husband is my biggest fan and promotes the book everywhere he goes to anyone he can. He truly believes in the message that Smarty Pig brings to children and parents. My kids are actually helping me write the next book about bullying. Even my nine year old son starts to work out rhymes that I can incorporate into the book. It’s wonderful that they believe in me, especially since this is really a reinvention of my career.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Molly: The Smarty Pig series deals with issues and situations our youngest learners are dealing with. Smarty Pig is about a family of pigs that have given up on school. They don’t do their homework and feel it’s not important. The only one who does is teased and nic-named Smarty Pig. When Smarty Pig gets good grades and the others fail, they reach out to her to help them. She takes skills taught at school and puts them into real-life situations, for example, the kitchen becomes a grocery store with things to be purchased using play money. As the games are played, their grades improve too. They begin to understand that learning CAN be fun, and it’s not just for school, learning is for life.
Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror deals with the fear of tests that affects many students. Petey Pig shuts down when he is asked to take a test, so Smarty Pig models different strategies to help him calm down and feel more confident. This is another issue many kids struggle with especially with all the state testing that goes on now in our schools.
VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Molly: Developing the plot of the story is my favorite part of writing at this time. I know what I want to get across to my audience of children, but I want them to relate to my character and message. You start with an idea that takes you in many different directions while you make choices along the way to help it grow. You’re never exactly sure how it will turn out, but the process is delightful. In the end, I want my readers to enjoy the book, yet learn its message at the same time.
VS: What is the most difficult part of writing?
Molly: The difficulty with Smarty Pig is it’s all in rhyme which can be challenging. I don’t want to sacrifice my message or give up a figure of speech or something that I know kids will relate to for the rhyme. It becomes like a dance where the ideas and words must work together to create a story that the kids can read, understand, and enjoy.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Molly: Stories are abundant and in many different stages in my notebooks, laptop, and thoughts. I really wished for more books for little boys when my son was small to help with social skills, so I am working on a series specifically for that age. My daughter is developing the illustrations, so it will be a family production! Another story I’m currently finishing is My Come and Go Sisters which depicts the life my daughter has lived with 3 step-sisters, and all the laughter and frustrations that goes with a family whose members don’t all live together all the time.
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Molly: “To be patient and keep writing” would be my advice. I wrote whenever I could while I taught full-time with 2 young children going with me to the elementary school every day. Many lunch periods were spent talking into a digital recorder as I walked the gym track outside giving myself a chance to focus on the stories as they developed in my thought. I’m sure many school parents would drive by and think that I had lost my mind talking to myself, but that simply was the only chance I had. My stories have been tucked away in different places for many years. I was finally able to complete Smarty Pig and pursue its publication, but that brought rejection letters and disappointment. It’s tough, but if you believe in your work, and it’s the best you know you can do, don’t give up. I found a publisher that believed in my message, and it’s been an amazing ride.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Molly: My characters must come to life for young kids. To have validity with my audience, I use details taken from my own experience as a music teacher of grades Kindergarten through 5th. Attitudes and situations that kids understand or experience themselves help create depth in the character. Smarty Pig‘s family has given up on school. They simply don’t care and show that by not doing their homework. How many kids give up on homework sometime? How many kids wish they could just not do it at all like the pigs do? This is relatable for young students and helps my characters come to life.
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Molly: Being a “writer” gives you an amazing connection with your own kids. You are doing something that is also a big part of their life in school. What a great role model for your kids! Working with language is a gift that many don’t understand or use, so when you are writing, you’re teaching your own kids that it’s important to choose words carefully and to move beyond the overused, tired words everyone uses. Share your writing and ideas with them and you’ll be surprised at the support and sometimes even great criticism or suggestions that they might have for you. It could spark a desire in them to become writers as well!
Smarty PigPublisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number: 978-1-61244-048-4
Genre of Book: Picture book
Publication Date: December 2011
About the Book:
The school year has started but the pigs have given up on school and aren’t doing their homework. All but one, that is. Smarty Pig is working hard. Although she gets teased, her report card shows her hard work, while the others fail. They reach out to her, and she becomes their tutor. By creating games in their home that practice skills, Smarty Pig shows them that they can learn, and it’s really fun after all. She helps them understand that learning is not just for school, it’s for life.
Smarty Pig helps again in Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror when the fear of taking a test shuts down Petey Pig. Available in Spring 2012.
Get a sneak peek of the book at http://youtu.be/E2L_NS2QqgM
You can find out more about Molly Nero’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/MollyNero.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Nero and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.