Featured Expert – Julie Danielson

Looking for the latest information on what’s happening with the who’s who of children’s literature? If so then KidLit TV’s Featured Expert Julie Danielson is here to help. Julie is the founder of 7-Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog mainly focused on illustration and picture books. On her creative blog of wonders, Julie conducts many interviews and features about authors and illustrators, some veteran and others aspiring. We, at KidLit TV, have been fans of Julie’s website and you’ve probably seen us share many of her articles here in the past. We’re happy we were able to catch this busy blogger for an interview to share with you all.

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I’d like to think of 7-Imp as a sort of literary salon where authors and illustrators stop by to share their craft. After getting a cup of cyber-coffee. –Julie Danielson

Julie has worked as a sign language interpreter and a children’s librarian… at the same time. Talk about dedicated! She studied children’s literature and librarianship in the School of Information Sciences at The University of Tennessee. Now an expert on children’s literature, she teaches a graduate course on picture books at the University.

Her most recent librarian position was at The Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville, while being a stay-at-home-mother for years.

“Stay-at-home mom” always makes it sound like the woman is tethered to the kitchen table, so I’ve never been fond of it but wouldn’t know how else to put it.–Julie Danielson

Julie is no ordinary stay-at-home mom. In fact, she has juried for the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Award, as well as the BolognaRagazzi Awards for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy.

Today she works from home as a freelance writer. In fact, her first book, written with the wonderful Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta—Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature—came out in 2014. Julie also writes about picture books for Kirkus Reviews’ website, as well as picture book reviews and features for BookPage. Her writing has also been featured on The Niblings’ Facebook page, a place where she shares children’s literature news with a other well-known bloggers who all share the same love of kid lit!

If you want to learn more about the wonderfully talented Julie Danielson be sure to check out our interview with her!

The Interview:

If you were speaking to a group of parents and educators, what would you tell them about Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast?

I’d tell them that it is, as I always refer to it, a cyber-salon where authors and illustrators visit to talk about their work. It’s a bit heavier on the illustration side of things. For all intents and purposes, it’s an art blog; I love to share lots of art and early sketches and dummy images and that sort of thing. It’s not a review site at all, though I do weigh in on why I like certain books.

When the blog was born, I put this excerpt from Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto on the “about” page of the site, and I feel like it still captures well what I’m trying to do, even after nearly ten years of blogging:

“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don’t you think? It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.”

How was it like writing and working with the fabulous Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta?

It was lovely. I feel like I learned a lot about writing from them, particularly Peter. That’s no slight to Betsy, who is so flippin’ smart, but Peter had probably been writing for longer than Betsy and I combined. And after he’d edit one of my chapters, I’d walk away feeling like I’d just received a free lesson in tighter writing.

And Betsy? I don’t know how she gets it all done. Most impressive to me was that she never once complained in the five years we worked on the book. Well, okay, we definitely commiserated over source notes, because source notes can be cumbersome and headache-inducing, but Betsy never whines or feels sorry for herself. She just rolls up her sleeves and gets the work done, enjoying every moment of it.

How will parents and teachers benefit from visiting The Niblings (wonderful name by the way)?

Oh, thanks. Philip Nel gets credit for that.

I feel like it’s a great place to visit for children’s lit news—I certainly hope we achieve that goal anyway—since we share our own writings, as well as pieces other people have written. The other advantage, I think, is that we offer a variety of backgrounds. Phil is a scholar. Betsy is a public librarian. Travis is a school librarian. Mitali writes for older readers. Minh is about to publish his first picture book. (And he’s not the only one to publish.) Those various perspectives keep it interesting for folks, I hope.

What are some of your favorite topics on The Niblings?

That’s hard to answer, because we share miscellaneous things. Each Nibling has his or her own style, too, which is always interesting to see. I guess I’d say that, generally speaking, I like how visiting this page I contribute to gets me caught up on everyone else’s blog posts – and then I feel more caught up in general on my children’s lit happenings.

Do you have any fun and memorable moments to share about your careers?

If you mean the Niblings, I think it’s funny that at my 7-Imp archives I have older interviews with both Minh and Betsy. Our blogs are gettin’ on up there in age. Betsy and I started blogging right around the same time, I think, though she started a bit earlier. And I used to have this interview series where I chatted with children’s lit bloggers. I no longer do that. But, yes, I have old interviews with them in my archives.

I’ll also add that I’ve just started working on a biography, and Philip Nel has been invaluable when it comes to advice. He may, in fact, be tired of me bugging him with questions (though he’s so nice that this may not even be the case). I appreciate his kindness and knowledge-sharing.

What are some tips you would give bloggers when starting their own blog?

Avoid hyperbole (unless it’s for comic effect). Temper any hyper-earnestness. Don’t fawn over authors and illustrators. They’re humans too. (I speak from experience on those first three tips. My very oldest blog posts make me cringe, because I wasn’t careful about those things.) Be discerning. Think critically. Find what it is about your blog that is unique and that offers readers what another site isn’t already offering, especially your own unique voice/way of writing. Remember that it’s a big, wide world out there with big and little publishers and people of all skin colors and beliefs and ways of writing stories. Be precise: Don’t call yourself a “reviewer” if what you do is rave about each and every book you read.

What’s your favorite part about the kid lit world? The magic? The family-like atmosphere? The joy of seeing a child learn to read? All of the above?

I read middle-grade books and YA books and board books and beginning readers and chapter books and adult books and memoirs and so on, but my very favorite stop on the spectrum is picture books. It’s the most unique art form there is. I love to see a well-crafted one.

And, since I’m a school librarian by training, I love story times. It’s what I miss the most about that work. I love sharing a great story with children, so I volunteer to do story times wherever my school librarian friends will have me.

How has KidLit TV been helpful to you? 

Oh, I like to stop by and watch videos and read news — and get caught up blog posts around the so-called kidlitosphere in the “Latest Community” column. Generally, it’s a great resource for news, and I’m all for that!

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