By AJ Eversole
I’m excited to feature past Cynsations reporter Kim Rogers in celebration of her debut picture book! We love to see our team succeeding.
What is the heart of Just Like Grandma?
I call it the “beating heart” because it creates palpable emotion that you can feel.
The beating heart of Just Like Grandma is intergenerational relationships.
What do you love most about the creative life/being an author? Why?
One of the things that I love most is making friends. I enjoy meeting other creatives at conferences and writing retreats. I’ve met some definite kindred spirits and some of my best author friends that way. They uplift me and keep me writing.
Last March, I attended a beach writing retreat in Seabrook, Washington. It was a blast hanging out with my agent and new friends. I’d been working on a manuscript and felt stuck. I was hoping to complete it before I returned home. That didn’t happen, but something unexpected did.
One day at the retreat, I took a solo morning walk on the beach. While I stood there absorbing the beauty, a powerful word came to me. That word is now included in my book and set the whole thing in motion again. After I came back home and slept for 11 hours straight, I was able to finally finish the manuscript. I’m thrilled to say that it sold soon after. I can’t wait to share more with you all soon!
When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?
Before the pandemic, I spent a lot of time writing in my local library’s quiet room. I enjoyed being out of the house and around other people. I would sit near several large windows and often gaze at trees and birds, college students hurrying to class, and at kids and parents holding hands as they walked by. But it all became too distracting!
And then we went into lockdown.
It now causes me anxiety to be around a lot of people, so I redecorated my office. My computer faces a wall covered with inspiring images and quotes. I added a new rug, a papasan chair with pillows, a reading lamp, and a tiled garden end table.
Owning a papasan chair is nostalgic for me because we had one at my house when I was growing up. It’s where I used to cuddle with the dog in our living room and watch shows or movies. My family fought over who’d get to sit in it!
It’s hard to see any positives that can come from a devastating worldwide pandemic, but for me creating a better office space that I enjoy writing and reading in has been an unexpected blessing. In fact, it’s made me more productive. The key for me is having the windows at my back, blinds closed, eyes focused on the work.
Writing in the mornings works best for me. I feel accomplished, and then I’m ready to take on the rest of the day.
Could you tell us about your new release?
Just Like Grandma (Heartdrum, 2023) is a lyrical and rhythmic picture book, a tender and touching story about a Wichita girl who wants to be just like her grandmother. It’s also a story about a grandfather who shows his love for his family through cooking. Julie Flett’s stunning illustrations bring this book to life.
One thing threaded throughout the book in a refrain is a sunset. “The sun dips below the tree line . . .” And then Grandpa calls them in for a nourishing meal. It’s funny how ideas come to you. When I drive home in the evenings, I often catch a glimpse of the sunset near our house. I took a mental note that it dipped below the tree line amongst the evergreens. It’s so beautiful, it takes my breath away.
In 2019, my husband surprised me with Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill Tour concert tickets for my birthday. We drove up to the Tulsa Theater to attend. It was the first time I heard their new song, “Autumn Leaves” on stage sung by Johnny Rzeznik. He sang about the sun sinking below the tide. His lovely words were engraved in my mind. It didn’t hit me until the book was written, where the idea for the sunset came from—those two experiences.
Everything around us influences our writing in conscious and subconscious ways. Our minds sift through them, and the meaningful things end up in our writing.
What appeals to you about writing picture books? What are the craft challenges of writing for this age group?
Picture books are my favorite art form. During lockdown, it was difficult for me to read longer works. My attention span was all over the place because like everyone else, I was in survival mode. The books that brought me the most joy then were picture books.
One thing that I love about them is that they give you that emotional pay-off in a shorter amount of time. You can read a lot of them in one sitting and get those warm and fuzzy feelings with each one you read. Picture books are also for everyone. Many adults like to collect them, and so do I.
The challenge for me is honing in on an idea because I have so many! I write in other age groups, too.
How has your writing evolved over time?
I no longer waste time writing words just for the sake of writing. I’ve tried that during NaNoWriMo, unfocused and without a plan. That doesn’t work for me. When I know what I’m going to write, the reason why I’m writing it, and have a rough outline, that’s when I write best. I’ve never been a person who likes to waste time. I try to make everything I write intentional with heart.
I don’t write every day on my laptop, but I do write every day in my head.
I read more than I write. That’s where I find inspiration. I’m constantly thinking about ideas for books. With some of my books, I’ve thought about them for years before writing them. Yes, years! When I do that, the words pour out better on the page when I do sit down to write.
Kim Rogers is the author of Just Like Grandma, illustrated by Julie Flett (Heartdrum, 2023); A Letter for Bob, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Heartdrum, 2023), is planned for summer release; and I Am Osage: How Clarence Tinker became the First Native American Major General, illustrated by Bobby Von Martin (Heartdrum, 2024) comes out in winter of 2024. Kim is also a contributor to Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids (Heartdrum, 2021). She is an enrolled member of Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. Kim lives with her family on her tribe’s ancestral homelands within Oklahoma.
AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing, and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily young adult fiction. AJ currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas; with her husband. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or on Twitter @amjoyeversole.