Start off by telling us what have you written.
I have written one children’s book so far, called Love is What Makes Us a Family. It’s about a little girl whose mom and dad get divorced, and her mom comes out as gay. I also write a blog called “For the Best Reasons,” which touches on personal subjects like divorce and coming out, as well as the writing process I’ve experienced.
Where can we buy or see your writing?
Love is What Makes Us a Family is coming out in the summer of 2016, and will be available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, as well as Portland/Vancouver area bookstores. I’ll also be selling the book on my website - juliaemorrison.com. The blog can be found there as well.
Will your next book have LGBT characters as well?
Absolutely. During the process of writing my first book, it became clear that there is a huge need for more LGBT children’s literature. There aren’t nearly enough books with LGBT characters, especially stories that just happen to have LGBT characters, without them being the storyline. For example, there are stories that focus on two moms or two dads getting married, but not many books about a kid, doing something, who just happens to have two moms, or two dads. That is where I’d like to focus my attention next - writing a story centered around a child with an LGBT family member, but that isn’t THE story, it’s just something in the background. The more of these stories we can have, the more it will normalize LGBT people in general, which is how it should be.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I would love to write a series. I’m thinking that Eliza could be the character that is in each story, but she encounters different LGBT scenarios. But I would also like to write stories about her doing other things, and maybe her mom and mom’s girlfriend are there too, but we aren’t the story, just in the background.
Were you good at English?
I have always loved reading and writing, and English was one of my favorite subjects in high school. I went to college to be an English teacher, and I really enjoyed taking English courses and writing essays. I got to read some incredible books, essays and poetry.
Which writers inspire you?
A couple of children’s authors that I really enjoy are Todd Parr and Mo Willems. Both write with humor that I can appreciate as an adult, and is entertaining for my daughter as well. I especially appreciate Todd Parr’s ability to include all different types of family scenarios into his stories - he is truly inclusive.
What is your favorite book and why?
This is such a hard question! I’ve read hundreds of books, and enjoyed so many, for such different reasons. I actually have two books that I absolutely adore, so I’ll tell you about those. The first is The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Actually, I love her short stories as well - don’t even get me started on “Story of an Hour,” or “Desiree’s Baby.” I read The Awakening in college, and without spoiling the story, I think what really spoke to me was Chopin’s ability to write about women who weren’t satisfied with the typical role of mother and homemaker. I mean, here she is, writing in the late 1800s, early 1900s, about women who don’t want to be married, but would rather have their own lives that aren’t dictated by men. So not only is she advocating for women’s rights and freedom, but she’s doing it at a time when that view wasn’t accepted. But much like her characters, Chopin didn’t care what others thought - she did was she needed to do to stay true to herself, and I’ve go so much respect for that.
My other favorite is a young adult book called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. A co-worker introduced me to this book about 7 years ago, and I liked it so much I finished it in a weekend. I eventually took the book to the school board and got it approved so that I could teach it in my senior English class. It’s about a boy named Arnold, who grows up on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington. Arnold realizes pretty early on in the book that if he continues to go to school on the rez, then he probably won’t have access to the education that he wants, so he makes the difficult decision to go to school in the neighboring town (which is 100% white), and he encounters discrimination not only from the students, but also from many people on his reservation. What I love about this book is Arnold’s humor, which comes out in his dialogue, but also in his drawings which he shares throughout the story. I also really love the fact that Arnold never gives up hope. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, or quit, which would be so easy to do. I think that my students could identify with Arnold’s need to act one way on the reservation, and another way at school, and with that feeling of not really fitting in in either place.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
You know, it really depends on what I’m reading. If it’s just a book for fun, my Kindle is great. I use it quite a bit to check out books on the Overdrive app, which is really convenient. But if I’m reading something that requires me to take notes, or that I know I’ll want to lend to people, I’d much prefer a hard copy. There’s just something really magical about holding a book in your hands that you can’t get from the Kindle.
Which book/s are you reading currently?
Right now I’m reading a murder mystery called You Are Dead. I just recently finished Becoming Nicole, about a transgender girl and her family, which was really interesting.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I definitely do. I am notorious for choosing books based on their covers. With so many options to choose from, I’m drawn to books with interesting covers. From there, I read the back and see if it looks interesting, but if the cover isn’t catchy, I probably won’t pick it up. Because of that, Laura wanted to make sure that the cover of our book was interesting, and conveyed some information about the book via the illustration.
How are you publishing this book and why?
Laura (co-author and illustrator) and I knew that traditional publishing was a long shot, so we decided to go with self-publishing. I started researching self-publishing companies based on recommendations from other blogs, and compared products, services and prices. Laura and I finally decided to go with Archway Publishing. We chose the middle of the road package (Inspire - $5,000), which offered quite a few services, but wasn’t going to completely bankrupt us.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
In my classroom, I made a poster with the phrase by an anonymous author that says “Whatever your past has been, your future is spotless.” I have found this to be incredibly inspiring to my students. I work with students who may not have had the best experiences in school, but I want them to know that none of that matters. As soon as they walk into my classroom, they start with a clean slate, and in here, they will be successful. It’s often hard for them to let go of those negative experiences, but eventually they start to believe that they CAN do it. It’s a pretty amazing process to be a part of.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
The first thing that comes to mind is that In five years my daughter will be twelve! I can’t hardly fathom that! Professionally, I see myself continuing to work at the alternative school, as well as writing. I’m hoping to have published at least one, if not two or three, additional LGBT children’s books.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself two words: be brave. I made far too many decisions based on fear, rather than on what would be best for me. I’m trying my best to live that advice now - doing things that scare me because I know that in the end it will be the right choice, even if things don’t work out. I was really scared to write the book, that it’s been an amazing process, and I’m glad that I did it.