I recently had the opportunity to meet on Zoom with Katie Giacomini from TeachingBooks, for a brief author interview. I had filled out interviews over email and on Google Forms before but never had a chance to talk directly to a living person, to speak on the fly, to share my thoughts (and share and share and share my thoughts sometimes!), and to answer questions asked live. As a new children’s book author, this experience was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but Katie’s warm demeanor and heartfelt assurances that it would be a pleasant experience put me at ease. And she was right!
Here’s a recap of what we discussed.
What Inspired You to Write Simply Skye?
I get asked this question a lot and the answer is simple: my child! My oldest socially transitioned at a young age and we had a hard time helping their friends and cousins understand. At that time, they were still within the binary, but it was a difficult thing for people to understand. So I wrote the very first manuscript of Simply Skye as a way to share with friends and family and to help everyone understand what our child was going through.
At the time, it wasn’t specific to the nonbinary experience, because I’ll be honest, this was over ten years ago and we didn’t have that language yet. Instead, Simply Skye focused (as it still does) on exploring gender and not feeling confined by the standard binary expressions that existed. It also focused on parents supporting their children on that journey, which I think is an equally important message. And the story helped.
As my child grew, the story wasn’t necessary and I put it away. About two years ago, my oldest started exploring their gender again, and with that exploration came the realization that they were non-binary. I remembered this story I wrote and pulled it out to read to them again. They told me that this is the kind of book they wished had been on bookshelves when they were younger and that I should absolutely pursue publishing it.
The rest, as they say, is theirstory.
What was Your Biggest Challenge?
One of the most unexpected revelations from our interview was that my journey as a children’s book author is unlike most everyone else’s, in that I didn’t really have any challenges along the way. I have, since publishing Simply Skye, seriously pursued writing a children’s book and I could go on and on about all the challenges, from querying to pitching to critique and feedback. But I didn’t experience any of those with Simply Skye.
The truth is, every step of the way, I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. I pitched Simply Skye at a #DVPit in October of 2021, and it was liked by two acquiring editors, one of whom was Rebecca Glaser from Amicus Publishing. I sent my query letter (which absolutely embarrasses me to read now) and the manuscript to both and heard back immediately from Rebecca. In her reply, she shared how much this manuscript meant to her on a personal level and that she wanted to bring it to the next acquisitions meeting and if everyone was in agreement, she would make sure to bring on a non-binary illustrator. That was early November and the contract was signed before the end of the year.
Fast forward, and Heather Bell was brought on and it continued to be this magical, collaborative project from start to finish.
The biggest challenge I’ve had is marketing…because I knew so little and had floated along in this blissful cloud of collaboration that it wasn’t until a week before the release that I realized I had really dropped the ball. I’ve been slowly trying to correct my course, with interviews like this! But it will be a marathon.
What was Your Biggest Joy?
I organized a book launch at a local bookstore, Bobzbay, despite my terror of publicly signing books. I have trauma related to handwriting, that’s a story for another day. I had so many worries, fears, and concerns going into that launch. Then the first person approached my table to tell me they were family planning and wanted to fill their nursery with LGBTQ+ positive children’s books and they saw mine and knew they had to have it, all my fears melted away.
Lots of friends attended, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them. But strangers came too, and their stories of how they found the book, of how important the book was for them, for their kids, for children everywhere…it was surprising and heartwarming and joyful.
I chose to read a couple of pages from the book when Avi’s sister and brother try to “prove” that Skye is either this or that. I love these particular pages because they highlight binary thinking and how we often confuse gender identity with gender expression. What we wear or the toys we play with have nothing to do with how we feel inside. And I love that Avi stays true to themself and their gender identity, despite the external influences trying to claim otherwise.
The Story Behind the Name
Katie asked me to share a personal story about my name. Maybe how I got it or what it means or any detail to help her audience get to know me a little better. I love that this portion is included in the interview, because not only does it add a layer of intimacy to the interview, but it reminds us that every writer brings their unique experiences and history to their work, infusing it with a richness that can resonate with readers in profound ways.
So what was my story? My legal name is Pamela and I prefer Pamela. But throughout my life, people have automatically and without consent shortened it to Pam. Until a few years ago, I never spoke up. If they asked what did I prefer, I said either was fine, even though it was a lie. But I didn’t want to make waves or be difficult.
Since my child’s second transition a couple of years ago, I have forced myself to state my preference and to correct someone when they decide to shorten it anyway. It’s helped me to have the courage to do it for my kid and to correct people when they use the wrong name and pronouns.
But also, I prefer Pamela!
I can’t wait to hear the final version of our interview and to share it with my friends and community. Through Katie’s thoughtful questions and genuine interest, she brought out the heart and soul of my writing and hopefully, attention to Simply Skye. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my story with her and her audience.