We had the opportunity to interview June Cotner, author of 36 books including the bestselling books, Graces, Bedside Prayers, Wedding Blessings, and House Blessings. Her anthologies have sold over one million copies and have been featured in USA Today and other national publications. With Nancy Tupper Ling, June has also edited Family Celebrations: Poems, Toasts, and Traditions for Every Occasion (Andrews McMeel) and Toasts: The Perfect Words to Celebrate Every Occasion (Viva).
What inspired you to start writing books for children?
In the course of having adult anthologies published, I found that I wanted to create children’s anthologies with similar inspirational themes. My children’s book, Amazing Graces, grew out of my bestselling anthology, Graces. My newest book, For Every Little Thing, evolved because my coauthor, Nancy Tupper Ling, and I wanted to create a children’s anthology focused on gratitude.
What makes you passionate about being a writer?
I like creating anthologies that inspire people such as Hey! It’s Your Day as well as anthologies that offer hope and comfort during difficult times, such as Comfort Prayers and Back to Joy.
What was your favorite picture book as a child?
I’ve seen photos of myself reading Little Golden Books, but I do not remember the titles. What I do remember is my grandfather encouraging me to read the Bible while he rested. I thought he just simply enjoyed the stories, but now I believe he wanted to help me become a better reader.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
That I’m messy? I hate to admit it, but I adore being in the office and a lot of the household chores are picked up by my very gracious husband. He’s also a great cook!
What is a typical workday like?
I’m a night owl so I typically sleep in until 9 am. After breakfast, I give myself one hour to do anything that I like. I call it my “Morning Coffee Time.” During this time I will often work on new book projects, which will grow into book proposals. I find by giving myself one hour to work, I can write very quickly. I will focus on an activity such as writing a one-page description for a new book proposal—laying it out how it might appear on an Amazon description. I generally work until 4 pm and then I take out my dog, Indy, on a three-mile hike. I come home, have dinner, and then work until 9 pm.
What is the process of writing a book: how does it go from an idea to a finished work on sale in bookstores?
The process for me is I will come up with a new book idea and if I think it’s solid, I make a book cover mock-up to go on my bulletin board. Currently I have 25 book cover mockups posted in my office. From there I start doing a lot of online research and bookstore research. If I come to the conclusion that it’s a viable idea and ready to go to a book proposal, I run the idea by my agent along with my one-page description and supporting materials. If she likes it, then it’s a go!
I should also mention that I have coauthored three anthologies with Nancy Tupper Ling, including For Every Little Thing. We have now discussed ideas for about 25 future books.
How much research do you do before you begin a book?
There’s a tremendous amount of research that goes into a book proposal, both online and in bookstores. Regarding For Every Little Thing, we examined about 30 books and we uncovered two competitive books and two comparative books. Also, what makes my anthologies unique is they contain a lot of fresh content from more than 500 talented writers who have contributed to my books for many years. On my coauthored projects with Nancy, we create a “Call for Submissions” that offers a description of the book and sample poems and prayers that would work in the new book. We both do a lot of reading!
Can you share your favorite highlight from For Every Little Thing?
In reading one of Nancy’s Q & As for the extensive blog tour she has been on, I learned that one of my favorite poems of Nancy’s in the book, “Tonight,” evolved from a dream her seven-year-old daughter told her. I was deeply moved when I realized that almost any interaction we have with another person could become a poem, a song, the beginning of a novel, or something that you carry in your heart forever.
My second favorite highlight was being captivated by the drawings from our illustrator, Helen Cann. There are so many sweet and hidden delights throughout the book, such as giving little name labels for the animals in the tender poem, “If You Feel Alone in Bed,” by Tim Myers.
What do you hope kids learn from For Every Little Thing?
I hope children will be delighted by the poems and prayers and that they will find many selections that relate to their own lives such as in our chapters, “Morning” and “Nightfall.” In the “Graces and Blessings” chapter, I believe parents and caregivers will discover simple prayers that they will enjoy sharing with their children. The book also offers poems about Love, Kindness, Family, Friends, and the World Around Us. The over-arching theme is gratitude, which Nancy and I set out to accomplish from the time that we first conceived the book.
We are grateful that Kathleen Merz and Eerdmans took us on this great journey!
Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day
Edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling
Illustrated by Helen Cann
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