Mary Bleckwehl takes her love of stories and her award-winning books into schools, libraries, and wherever book lovers roam. Before that she taught school and raised kids and unruly pets. Her most recent release, Claire’s Hair, hits on a sensitive topic with humor and empathy. Henry you’re late again! and Henry you’re hungry AGAIN? are previous hits. Soon her five non-fiction and two middle grade novels hit the shelves. Bleckwehl lives in Northfield, Minnesota with her husband and monster dog.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
Claire’s Hair is a tale of hair, heart and humor. Claire loves her wild and woolly-hair and so does her best friend, Albert. Their imagination over what they can do with her hair brings them loads of laughter. But when Albert gets sick, the laughter disappears. Claire and her hair find a way to bring it back.
I wrote this story of kindness and empathy because the world never has enough of it. Also, I had wild woolly hair when I was young and, like Claire, never wanted my mother to comb it, wash it, etc The serious part of the story is part of what we see in more and more picture books-where readers can relate to real life, sensitive topics-in this case, hair loss due to illness/treatment.
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
This book is fictional so there was not much research needed. I did consult with someone who lost her hair to gain perspective.
I write non-fiction too and spend the majority of time researching compared to writing the actual content. Finding credible sources and documenting them is important.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Deciding which idea (of the hundreds I have jotted down or are dancing in my head!) to delve into is a challenge, but the most difficult is getting the ending “right”-that is, a satisfying one that has a bit of humor and is unexpected.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It inspired me to write more and it showed me I needed to write “tighter”.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
I don’t think I know or realize which authors have influenced me as I have read and enjoyed and learned from so many. Some of my favorite children’s authors include David Shannon (No, David!), Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, Polar Express) because they are “read it again” books!
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
The following books are done and due out soon:
Non-fiction: The Birthday Cookbook (Jan 2021); Awesome Disgusting Careers (4-book series) in Medicine, Science, Water and Sewer, and Garbage. (2022) Black Rabbit Books/The Creative Company
Middle-grade novels: Finding S.A.M. (April 2021) Red Chair Press; Two Girls and a Yellow Bucket (2021) Clear Fork Publishing.
And I have countless stories that are in different stages of drafts. About a half dozen of them are submission-ready.
7. What does literary success look like to you?
It looks like me writing for enjoyment because I have something to say-whether it’s for fun or to educate. The end product is icing on the cake-especially if it gets published and others are able to enjoy it.
8. What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved words: quotes, stories, someone’s name. When I had a health emergency while on my Hawaii vacation, I couldn’t teach anymore and needed something equally fulfilling to give to children. Now I consider it my legacy to write for children. It will be around long after I’m gone.
9. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to garden, bike, play games and enjoy the outdoors, participate in mission trips and spend time with family.
10. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?