We had the opportunity to interview children’s author and poet, Nancy Tupper Ling. Some of her books include The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low), The Ying-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful (Putnam), and several anthologies co-edited with June Cotner. Nancy has received the Writer’s Digest Grand Prize for her poetry.
E: What inspired you to start writing books for children?
NTL: This might sound like a cliché, but my children definitely inspired me. We have a multicultural family since my husband is Chinese-American. When our girls were younger, I couldn’t find a whole lot of diverse picture books with characters that looked like a blend of nationalities. One of my earlier stories, Double Happiness (Chronicle Books) has characters who would be familiar to other Chinese-American readers.
E: What makes you passionate about being a writer?
NTL: Writing feels like a calling, like something I’m meant to do. Even if I try to put it aside, it always follows me. Really, it’s the readers who keep that fire burning. For example, when I was selling my first book, My Sister, Alicia May, at an event many years ago, I was approached by two sisters, one of whom had Down syndrome like my main character. The girls proceeded to tell me that they had performed my story as a play and they’d won a prize for their performance. Then, right in front of me, they began to perform my words, my story, for me to see. Nothing gets better than that! That is exactly were the passion to write comes from.
E: What was your favorite picture book as a child?
NTL: Definitely, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf was one of my all-time favorites. Ferdinand was an underdog, and that made me love his story all the more.
E: Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
NTL: I’m an only child and one of my favorite memories is coming home from the library with a tote-full of books with my Mom. I’m pretty sure this led me to become a librarian.
E: What is a typical workday like?
NTL: When my girls were younger, I got into the habit of tucking them into bed and writing until midnight. That habit has stuck, since my best writing happens after dinnertime. This year I retired after ten years as an Outreach Librarian at a local library, and now I work at The Blue Bunny Books & Toys in Dedham, MA.
E: How much research do you do before you begin a book?
NTL: It really depends on the book. With For Every Little Thing, June Cotner and I researched both comparative and competitive book titles so that we knew how our book differed from anything that had been published already. Even when I’m creating a fictional picture book, however, I still make sure to do the same. You can’t keep a good librarian from her research.
E: Can you share your favorite highlight from For Every Little Thing?
NTL: I think the highlight for every picture book I’ve created is seeing those first sketches from the illustrator. When Helen Cann shared her image of the “season tree,” which captures all four seasons in one tree, I cried with delight. The final spread appears with Jill Noblitt MacGregor’s poem, “Simple Graces,” and it’s breathtaking. Even with that first sketch, we could tell it would be amazing.
E: What do you hope kids learn from For Every Little Thing?
NTL: To take a moment in their day…to stop, observe the beauty, to be curious, to put down their gadgets, and to breathe in wonder.
E: Which five words best describe For Every Little Thing?