Meet the Author: Calista Brill

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading. This week, we meet the author of  Little Wing, Calista Brill.

A book about a little dragon learning to fly AND a possible new book involving elephants on the way…what more could we at Elephant Books ask for? This month we’re sharing Calista Brill’s book, “Little Wing”, with many of our subscribers. A delightfully written and illustrated story, “Little Wing” follows a young dragon just learning how to fly and perhaps getting in over his head! It’s a wonderful tale about growing up and literally and figuratively testing one’s wings.

We had the chance to speak with Calista Brill and ask her about “Little Wing”, becoming a children’s author, and advice for parents with young readers. Originally from Michigan, Calista now lives and works in New York City where, in addition to writing children’s books, she edits graphic novels. We hope you enjoy our interview with her and reading “Little Wing”!

Little Wing Learns to Fly is a sweet story about a a young dragon taking the first steps to independence — was the story line inspired by some event or memory?

It was more inspired by a conversation with my editor (such a romantic origin story, I know…) about the ways we try to find a balance between independence and safety when we’re little kids, and the ways our parents can help us find that balance. I wrote this book before I had kids, but now that I have them, it’s even more important to me!

What’s your process in writing a children’s story — are you character driven, story-oriented, etc?

I almost always start with a character. For me, story is built around character.

The illustrations (in particular the expressions) in Little Wing are very evocative — how closely do you work with the illustrator?

Actually, we had very little contact with each other, which sounds like a bummer, but what that meant for me was that every now and then my editor would appear with this breathtaking art that (to me) seemed to have been summoned out of the ether! It was like having the best birthday ever, over and over again.

How do your formulate your characters, for example, why a dragon for this particular story?

A dragon seemed like such a good match for a character who is, primarily, *fearless*… until he’s not, of course.

What inspires you when you write for children?

I like the challenge of finding stories — and language — that is fun and engaging for kids as well as for the grownups reading to them. It’s hard! But when you get it right, it feels really good.

What were your favorite children’s books when you where growing up?

I loved anything that rhymed. Wallace Tripp’s books of nonsense verse were a favorite for me for a very long time.

What would you most recommend to parents who want to develop a love of reading in their children?

Find books that you both like. The more you enjoy it yourself, the more you’ll be willing to sit with your kids and read those books over… and over… and over… and over… Also, and I’m terrible at this — let your kids see *you* reading for fun. I read a lot of ebooks on my phone, so from my toddler’s POV I’m just always staring at a screen. So of course that’s all he wants to do, too! I’m trying to remember to read more on paper, so that he can see what I’m up to.

When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges or opportunities you think there are to address?

Sometimes it’s hard for a book to compete with, say, an app or a video game or a TV show. Finding a way to encourage kids and parents to carve out time for reading — and then finding ways to make it *actually fun* is so important! Often all it takes is finding just the right book… which can mean trying and failing an awful lot before something sticks.

Any advice for aspiring children book authors?

Try to find the overlap in the Venn diagram between what you’re uniquely passionate about, and what the rest of the world is likely to care about. It’s harder than you’d think!

Finally, what are you working on at the moment? Any new books we can look forward to in the future?

I’m writing a book about an elephant! As is always the case, you never know if something is going to work until it’s on bookshelves, so no promises. But it’s a lot of fun finding ways to think like an elephant.

Many thanks to Calista for sharing her time and insights with us. We obviously like the sound of a new book about elephants! If you’d like to learn more about Calista Brill and her latest endeavors, you can visit her website, www.calistabrill.com, where you can see more images from “Little Wing” as well as some of her other projects.

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