Author Interview: Carole Gerber

Carole Gerber

It’s Picture Book Month, and what better way to celebrate than sharing an interview with 19 time picture book author Carole Gerber. While Carole’s writing career covers more than just picture books- she has written early readers, chapter books, anthologies, educational texts, and so much more- she was so gracious to focus on picture book writing for this interview.


What drew you to picture book writing?

Picture books are short! Ha! Seriously, my background – following a brief time teaching high school English – is in journalism. I have an M.A. in journalism and taught newswriting at OSU for a couple of years after my younger daughter was born. Then, as a freelancer, I did all sorts of practical writing. I was a contributing editor to a computer magazine and wrote tons of features. I covered academic conferences for Ohio State, wrote informative articles to educate hospital patients, did some annual reports, and lots of advertising copy for McGraw-Hill textbooks. As a result of my copywriting experience, I “fell into” writing short elementary reading and science texts for McGraw-Hill and other publishers. These projects honed my research skills and taught me to write simply. Some were exceptionally challenging. For example, I had to boil down the Illiad to 32 pages. Writing picture books is SO much more fun! 😊

Do your personal passions influence your ideas for picture books?

I adore the curiosity, humor, and innocence of young children! I also love nature, and many of my books reflect this: Leaf Jumpers, Spring Blossoms, Winter Trees – to name a few. I also like silliness, and one of my favorite books is Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices, which is quietly informative and laugh out loud funny as insects, plants, and other critters have dialogues in rhyme. This book was selected as a 2014 “Notable Title” by the National Council of Teachers of English. I have another manuscript, Sea Partners Poems for Two Voices, about symbiotic relationships in the ocean that is still making the rounds.

Many authors think they have no input in illustrations. Have you had input in your books’ illustrations?

Some publishers have given me a choice among two or three illustrators. Others have at least run the illustrator’s previous books past me to see if I felt the artist was a good match. All have sent me sketches to look over before final illustrations were begun. In many cases, I found something in the sketches that needed to be corrected before final art. All the editors I have worked with have been exceptional.

Can you compare the process of writing a picture book to writing a chapter book?

Chapter books are longer and written for older children. For fiction books, the plot can be more developed, and humor is an asset. My fiction chapter book, Jessica McBean, Tap Dance Queen, is about a young girl who outwitted the male classmates who teased her by calling her “tap dance queen.” For nonfiction chapter books, the topic is more developed than in picture books. I wrote an early reader chapter book for Random House a few years ago titled Stingrays! Underwater Fliers. It was interesting to research and kind of fun to write, but it kept getting passed on to different editors who had different ideas about content, which made for an unnecessarily lengthy writing process.

Can you tell us a little about your latest picture book (what it is about, how it came to be, etc.)?

I have two new holiday books this year: If You’re Scary and You Know It for Halloween and a Christmas book titled The Gifts of the Animals. Both got excellent reviews, and both are told in verse. The Halloween book is funny and can be read or sung. The Christmas book is sweet and beautiful. It’s about the animals in the stable preparing the manger for baby Jesus. Here’s a link to the page on my web site that tells a bit about each.

If someone wrote a picture book about you, what would the title be?

She was Compelled to Write! Years ago, I was disappointed by yet another rejection and whimpering to my husband (who was born with a practical engineering brain). He offered no sympathy but instead stated flatly, “You are compelled to write.” He was correct. 😊

Want to stay up-to-date on what Carole is working on? Visit her website

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