Last month I was lucky enough to be able to attend the book launch of Zanni Louise and Anna Pignaturo’s Too Busy Sleeping at The Little Bookroom in Carlton North. After the lovely speeches, a reading by Zanni with her two little girls perched on her lap, and delicious cupcakes shared around, I finally got to meet the beautiful Zanni, who I have followed since I started blogging, and who shares a particular taste in children’s literature titles with me. It was a treat indeed, and of course Zanni was as gracious and warm in person as she appears through her various creative projects. I loved that Zanni and Anna had turned up in the same earrings, quite coincidentally, there must have been a touch of serendipity in that!
Zanni was kind enough to do an email interview for me while the dust is settling from her epic book tour, and I’ve also reviewed the delightful Too Busy Sleeping. Enjoy!
1. Was the book inspired by the arrival of your own second child?
Yes, definitely. I wrote the book when my youngest was a month or two old. My older daughter had been so warm and receptive about her arrival. She was tender and kind towards her baby sister. Never jealous. I felt there was a story there. One day, she was standing in the bathroom, expressing something – I can’t remember what exactly – and it struck me as the emotional chord for the story. My husband suggested that the baby could be too busy sleeping… and the story went from there.
2. Anna Pignaturo’s illustrations are so beautifully whimsical, especially the way that they are inspired by objects like china and crocheted bits. Did you have an idea in your head of what style of illustration that you felt would suit your lovely story?
No, not really. Although I have always loved that watercolour, whimsical style Anna creates, so although I had no clear idea about what I hoped the book would look like, it was very familiar when at last I saw Anna’s beautiful creation of the story. It was so perfect.
3. You create so many inspiring things, from stunning watercolours made from the flowers in your garden, to tiny bound books and leaf dyed silks, do you find that those kinds of creative processes flow onto the ideas for your writing?
Yes, I am sure they do. We have a very creative space in our home. My kids’ craft table is in the middle of the house, and strewn with their creations. Our kitchen table is always covered in bits and pieces. I read the kids my drafts over breakfast. So much of our daily family activity is creative, and I am sure it all feeds into the same pool.
4. Tell us the story of how you met your publisher, bringing Too Busy Sleeping into our happy hands?
It’s a lovely story. Well, I was writing my blog, which was then Heart Mama. A lady called Tash got in touch. She was wondering if I knew about portacots. I didn’t especially, but I asked my blogging community, and they made some suggestions, which I sent to Tash. Tash then offered to send me some books – she was a children’s publisher! And I had just started writing children’s stories. I couldn’t believe it. I kept her business card in my wallet, like a golden ticket. Not long after, Tash actually contacted me to see if I could send her a manuscript. I sent her Too Busy Sleeping. It’s a rare thing for a first time author to get an invitation to send in a manuscript. But I thank my lucky stars, and my blog, every day!
5. Do you find that your story telling is informed by place? Do your particular surroundings have an impact on the way that you pull a story together?
Sort of. Well, not directly. I think space is important in general. I like spending time in the garden, and in nature, as it clears my head. Mostly, stories come to me when I am travelling or in a new space. The new perspective seems to recharge the creative juices or something, and a story that’s been cramped inside of me releases.
6. Is there any planned crossover between your children\’s writing and The Quincy’s?
I write stories for the Quincys, and we wonder if one day, the Quincys could be a mini literature series for early readers. I think they are lovely characters, and their setting and their environmental intentions are very timely.
7. Do you have any creative rituals? Do you sit down with a cup of tea in a special writerly nook, or do you write on the fly when an idea takes you?
I write on the fly mostly, and whenever I get the chance. I have a notebook for flying ideas. And my computer is on during the day in case there is a spare half hour when kids are busy playing. I used to do most creative work at night, but the children are going to bed later and later, and with long day light hours, night work is a struggle. But I have just discovered the silver lining to daylight savings. Two extra hours in the morning before anyone else is awake! It’s creative heaven.
8. We know that your second book is already waiting in the wings. Any others up your sleeve yet?
I have written many many more stories, and sent several away. I am working on an early reader series, which I hope is finally getting there. So time will tell!
9. What has been your favourite part about putting Eleanor and Rueben out there into the world? I loved the story about your little girls being ecstatic about a bath tub with a shower curtain in a motel on your travels, so they could pretend to be little Eleanors themselves. You must have had a hundred little moments like that.
I do. One of my favourites was listening to my then two-year-old recite the story, word for word in a hotel room. We also said it along with me at the launch, sitting on my lap. I love that the girls still love Eleanor and Reuben, no matter how many times they listen to the story. I love seeing pictures of kids falling asleep with my book. And I love that a three-year-old was distraut when I finished reading – I mean, I don’t love that she was sad – but I love that she was so passionate about the story she wanted it to last forever. I love hearing that the phrase ‘too busy sleeping’ has become a saying in some households. I love the connections I’ve made since its release. Gosh, I love it all.
10. Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s writers out there?
Write. Just write. And build an online community. Or any community, really, so when you are ready to share your words, you have someone to share them with. Be vulnerable. And experimental. Don’t give up on a story. If it doesn’t work the first time, keep it in your mind. It may fruit again in years to come. Collect as many ideas as you can. They don’t last, so write them down.
Too Busy Sleeping
Zanni Louise and Anna Pignaturo
Eleanor has a new baby brother. She waits eagerly at home for him with her grandparents, greeting him with a kiss when he arrives, and immediately asks if he can come out to play, the reply to which is a gentle and soon familiar refrain, ‘The baby is too busy sleeping,’
She spends this charmed first day playing in the garden, playing with her toys, playing with her grandparents, all the while asking when baby Rueben can come and join her, ‘Too busy sleeping,’ Even when he awakens, he has to feed and then sleep again.
When evening comes, the baby lays on their Mummy’s lap. After dinner is story time, and Eleanor thinks that Rueben can be too busy sleeping again now, but he stays awakes to enchant his big sister with his tiny toes and tiny fingers before he slumbers, and Eleanor knows that everything is just as it should be.
Anna Pignaturo is a veteran of many picture books, and her choice of vintage inspired illustration are a perfect pairing for Zanni’s story. The details, from the cherries on Eleanor’s skirt to her building blocks are exquisite. My favourite touch is the insertion of mixed media snippets of crochet placed thoughtfully throughout.
The story and illustrations as a whole make for a lullaby of the best kind. Too Busy Sleeping is a must buy if you have a little brother or sister arriving soon, but more than that, it is a sweet and gentle rumination on patience and presence, and it will become a favourite on your children’s bookshelves regardless of new babies in the house or not.
Linking up with #FYBF over at With Some Grace and with Bron over at #TheWeekendRewind