Joanna’ Rowland’s picture books have a way of gently guiding readers through life’s challenges, especially her book MEMORY BOX, featured here and ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD, featured here. When composing my monthly newsletter last May, I saw that she had a new picture book–STAY THROUGH THE STORM–and I couldn’t wait to feature it.
When a storm approaches, a friend encourages another to stay until it passes, sipping cocoa, building a fort indoors, and sharing memories.
Since our last interview, MEMORY BOX has been translated into different languages. What has been the most rewarding part of seeing this book make its way into the world?
So far, the Memory Box: A Book About Grief has sold Dutch foreign rights. It was read to over 140 families from around the world at St. Jude’s hospital on their Day of Remembrance which is an annual event for bereaved families. What has been special to watch with The Memory Box is to know it has been helpful for some families during one of their most heartbreaking times in their lives. I love reading reviews on Amazon (I know I’m not supposed to read reviews) but hearing from people I’ve never met that the book has touched has been so rewarding.
What a lovely journey the book has taken–and I have no doubt it will touch many more readers. I love how STAY THROUGH THE STORM encourages bravery. In what ways did the story develop as you wrote it?
During Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm in January 2017 I was watching snow fall at the cabin and I wrote the word storm down. I knew I wanted to write about a storm, I just didn’t know what the heart of my story was. I’d drive around listening to Imagine Dragons’ Thunder and Lightning song and just think. Nine months later on one drive I was thinking about my friend Scott that died by suicide and how I wished he had stayed. Then the metaphor and title hit me – Stay Through The Storm. I knew where the heart of the story was now. It’s really about friendship through a real storm but I hope readers can see that maybe it relates to life storms as well.
And it’s also a good reminder of how important it is to weather those storms together. What do you think are the necessary elements of a good story?
For me a good story has to connect to me on some emotional level. Does it make me want to laugh, cry, reminisce? I find the best stories are the ones that linger long after the book is closed.
Beautiful. What topics do you think should be covered more in picture books and why?
My heart is drawn to writing about the harder topics children face such as grief, divorce, and heartbreak. Kids don’t always have the ability to express their emotions during those hard times. Reading a book about other children going through difficult times can help. Books are a beautiful and safe way for children to navigate the world around them and to help open the door to conversation.
STAY THROUGH THE STORM
THE MEMORY BOX
ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD
This post can also be viewed here.