Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author, ghostwriter, and editor. Her children’s books include ‘Little Shepherd‘ (GAP, 2010) and ‘A Christmas Kindness‘ (4RV, 2012 & 2014). She is also a book reviewer and blogger. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. She’s here today to talk about her children’s book, Little Shepherd, perfect for the holiday season. Welcome, Cheryl!
Mayra Calvani: Congratulations on the release of your book, ‘Little Shepherd.’ What was your inspiration for it?
Cheryl Malandrinos: I’ve always loved Christmas carols and use many of them as lullabies. Each time I would sing “The Little Drummer Boy,” I would get a vision of a shepherd boy outside Bethlehem when the angels appeared. ‘Little Shepherd‘ became the story of the magical night when Obed met Baby Jesus.
M.C.: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?
C.M.: I’ve always been a big reader. The funny thing is that I never planned to write for children. In 2006, I decided to sit down and write Obed’s story, but it was the story of an adult remembering what happened when he was a boy. It wasn’t until my pastor and I started talking about the project that I changed my focus and wrote it as a children’s story.
M.C.: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?
C.M.: I graduated from Long Ridge Writers Group in 2005. Back then I was writing articles; many of them geared toward time management and organization for writers. I also attend writers conferences annually.
M.C.: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any difficulties along the way?
C.M.: Little Shepherd had numerous drafts before I felt good enough about submitting it anywhere. In the beginning, it lacked conflict. It took me asking a good friend about the story to help it along. With her advice and my idea of what I wanted it to be about, Obed’s story came together nicely.
M.C.: What do you find most challenging about writing for children?
C.M.: Remembering to let the pictures speak more. With picture books you don’t need to describe everything because the pictures do that for you. I tend to be a bit wordy sometimes.
M.C.: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
C.M.: I used to be great at balancing things, but now work and family keep me a lot busier than I used to be. Writing tends to be snuck in there when I’m not falling asleep. I’m slowly working on carving out more time.
M.C.: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.
C.M.: Guardian Angel Publishing was a publishing house I was familiar with because I reviewed many of their books at my blog. When it came time to publish my own book, I took what I had learned from reading their other books and crafted a story that would fit into one of their imprints. It was accepted after I made a few changes.
M.C.: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?
C.M.: It is wonderful. In the case of this book, the illustrator truly listened to my ideas. Ultimately, the artist knows what will work best, but I did see some of my ideas make it into his drawings.
M.C.: Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?
C.M.: To some degree. For a while, my kids thought all I did was work on my computer. There were a few frozen meals I tossed their way when I was working on deadline. You also have to be ready to let your pride suffer when it comes to book review time. Not everyone is going to like your story. It’s tough to make yourself so vulnerable, but the rewards are great.
M.C.: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers? Do you know of any helpful resources you’d like to share?
C.M.: Keep writing and learn as much as you can. There are many online resources these days, so take advantage of them to help you hone your craft. For children’s authors, a great resource is The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
M.C.: What’s on the horizon for you?
C.M.: I’m working on a middle grade novel, but I am also switching gears by writing a romantic suspense novella. My original plan was to write for the adult market, so I want to give it a try again to see what happens. I definitely won’t abandon writing for children, as I have several picture books written and two books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing that I hope will be out soon.