Andrea J. Loney: If You Put in the Work, the Workshop will Work for You

Feb 19, 2018 | Black Voices, Community Good News, The Highlights Foundation Experience

Take a Picture of Me James VanDerZeeAndrea J. Loney received her MFA in dramatic writing from New York University. Since then, she has worked various jobs, from screenwriter to teacher of computer skills. Andrea is also a proud volunteer for Reading to Kids and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She was the 2014 Lee & Low New Voices Award Winner with her debut picture book, Take a Picture of Me, James Vanderzee! In my house, she is also the superhero who created Bunnybear (Albert Whitman & Company).

BunnybearA quick estimate of the number of times my son has read Bunnybear since its release a year ago: 365. Recently, my seven-year-old said, “Do you know why Bunnybear is such a good book, Mom? Because it makes you feel like it’s okay to feel the things you do on the inside.”

I mean.

I just.

Andrea captures our hearts with Bunnybear’s relatable feelings. He hops along the pages when he can be himself, a bunny. When he meets Grizzlybun and knows that another animal feels as he does, there is a sense of complete harmony. I love the undercurrent of respecting self while respecting your neighbor. Andrea doesn’t share Bunnybear as a cautionary tale but rather the beauty of what could be in forests all over the land.

Last year Bunnybear came along with Andrea to the Foundation for our Crafting Successful Author Visits. (Take a Picture of Me, James Vanderzee! came too.) Andrea developed and implemented a school visit with the help of our mentors. You can watch a portion of her presentation here:

This year, Andrea will return to the workshop to share with debut authors in attendance what her debut year was like and the beauty of what can be in classrooms all over the land. Lucky for us, Andrea stopped by the blog to give us a preview of her workshop as well as to catch us up on what comes next for her as an author.

Alison: Hello, Andrea! Welcome to the blog. We’re all big fans of your work over here at the Foundation (and in our homes!). Can you share with us any projects coming soon?

Andrea LoneyAndrea: Thank you all so much for your support! It means so much to me. My next picture book is Double Bass Blues, illustrated by the phenomenal Rudy Gutierrez and published by Random House Knopf. It shares the adventures of a young black boy carrying his huge double bass from his suburban school, on buses, and through the city in order to share his favorite sounds of the journey with someone very special.

Alison: Looking forward to Double Bass Blues (2019). You’ve been busy. A new one coming, and two picture books released within six months of each other last year. What advice would you share with our readers as they prepare for a book debut (or two!)?

Andrea: Publishing a book can be a wonderful and bewildering experience. Most of us start this whole process with big, elaborate dreams, but things don’t always go as planned. I have found that the best way to deal with a book debut is to prepare as much as possible, be flexible enough to roll with it when things change, celebrate every single little victory that happens along the way, only focus on the things that I can control, and enjoy the ride

One of the best things I did last year was to join an online debut group the year before my book came out. Actually, I joined two debut groups because both of my books got bumped from 2016 to 2017 publication dates. But the Picture the Books 2017 debut group turned out to be an absolutely phenomenal collection of talented, professional, and generous individuals. We share resources, information, support, and sometimes frustrations, but I feel like I got an entire education in debut publishing by being a part of this group.

Alison: Great advice! We were delighted to host you as a participant at our Crafting Successful Author Visits workshop last year and look forward to having you on faculty at the same event this year. What do you think is the most beneficial part of this workshop? How has the workshop influenced your author visits?

Andrea: I can’t say enough good things about the Crafting Successful Author Visits workshop. Peter, Carmen, Jan, and Sudipta were incredibly generous with their time, their knowledge, and their hearts during that workshop. They created a nurturing but challenging space that encouraged us all to bring our best selves and our individuality to each visit.

School visit with Andrea J. LoneyI see the results of that hard work even now, as I watch my fellow students give spellbinding talks at events all over the country. So I suppose that the most beneficial part of the workshop is that if you put in the work, this workshop will work for you. Not only has it influenced my author visits, the techniques and the lessons I’ve learned in that course have provided a measurable boost to my teaching career and my public speaking engagements as well.

Alison: Thank you for your time today, Andrea! We look forward to seeing you this spring.

Andrea: See you soon!

*Shortly after Andrea’s interview her Bunnybear was named to the 2018 GLBTRT Rainbow List. Congratulations to Andrea, and all the 2018 Rainbow List books.

—Interview by Alison Green Myers

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