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Author Interview: Raven Howell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Raven Howell, author of Loved: A Mother's Celebration.

FQ: You are the author and poet of more than 20 children’s books, in addition to contributing to various magazines. Can you explain to your readers how you got your start in the field of writing? In other words, did you have a “big break” that you can recall and share?

HOWELL: I can’t say I had a “big break.” I had been writing since childhood and enjoyed work in the music business in song writing and publishing when I graduated school. I had a successful career and had the opportunity to meet and work with many wonderful artists. After a decade, I settled in the Hudson Valley (outside of NYC) where I raised my family and began to work in writing verse for greeting cards. It was fun and a conducive job to have while my sons were still small. In the 1990’s I began writing for children’s magazines, and from there, decided to try my hand at kids’ books.

FQ: Loved: A Mother’s Celebration is a simple story with a very meaningful message. Can you explain how you came up with the idea to write this story, and the inspiration behind the story?

HOWELL: Loved was composed as a prompt from a writing group I was involved with. It won 1st runner up in a contest I submitted it to and was encouraged to expand the text, and worked on editing it for several months.

FQ: Upon perusing your books a bit, it appears you have worked with many illustrators throughout your career. How do you decide who you will work with when you are ready to select an illustrator for a new story?

HOWELL: If I have the opportunity to choose an illustrator’s work to bring to the table, I do my best to imagine how their style matches the theme and vibe of the text. The publishers I’ve worked with, for the most part, include me in the decision making for choosing the artist. An editor may send me a few portfolio links to see if any of the artist’s work catches my eye and feels appropriate to the story.

FQ: You write a column for Story Monsters Ink magazine entitled The Book Bug. What topics do you typically cover when writing for this column?

Author Raven Howell

HOWELL: I love my Book Bug column and am so grateful to my publisher for giving me the freedom to pursue some terrifically fun interviews with the best kid lit authors and illustrators of our day. Topics are oriented toward the children’s community, always about literature, and tend to share uplifting messages to readers, especially students, around the world.

FQ: Since you contribute to so many magazines and present workshops, as well as work on your own manuscripts, how do you separate and organize your tasks to keep everything orderly?

HOWELL: I work 7 days a week! Ha! True. Lots of files on my computer and my calendar is marked.

FQ: You have had a very successful writing career to date. Can you share with your readers one of your favorite aspects of being an author as well as one challenge that you have faced along your journey?

HOWELL: My personal favorite aspect of being an author is sharing books and stories with children, whether that’s in story time during a bookstore author visit, or in a classroom.

A challenging aspect of putting out a book is that it involves a lot of waiting for the whole thing to come together with the team whom you are working with to produce the book. There are many aspects to consider, and it really IS teamwork.

FQ: What advice would you give to a young reader of yours who is interested in becoming a published children’s book author or a poet?

HOWELL: Read what’s relevant today, read all sorts of books and keep writing. Write what you know.

Feeling stuck? Dig around for something unique that inspires you and write about it. Even by starting to write down a description of something or a general plot of a story is one step forward!

FQ: In your bio, you share that you also illustrate “a little.” In what books or magazines could we find some of your illustrations? Do you hope to expand this part of your career so it's more than "a little"?

HOWELL: I wish I had time to pursue illustrative teachings and work, but my writing fills ups my schedule these days. Still, I love creating art for fun – watercolors, sketching, acrylics, and I love arts and crafts.

I illustrated 2 books which are now out of print. I had fun with mixed media in one and used collage work for an older children’s acrostic poetry compilation I wrote called Gibber.

My illustrations were published in a couple of children’s magazines years back, Once Upon a Time and Fun For Kidz magazine.

FQ: The illustrations in Loved: A Mother’s Celebration are all heartfelt depictions of parents with their children. Do you have a favorite scene that your illustrator, Pamela Rice, created for this book?

HOWELL: I am always amazed at illustrator Pamela Rice’s artwork. She’s such a pro. And I can rely on her to depict what my words are trying to convey in beautiful images. The Loved book cover is my favorite! From the interior I love the page where my text mentions turning a frown upside down. Pamela’s sweet girl in that image is priceless!

FQ: Can you share a bit about what is up next for you? Do you have another story in the works? What can you tell us about what’s to come in your writing career?

HOWELL: I’m celebrating my first early reader chapter book releasing March 2024! It’s called The Charms of U.S. Farms and it’s about a fun classroom trip to a couple of farms where the students are surprised to find where our food comes from and how things are grown.

This spring is bustling with lots of children’s events, book fairs and story times. I’ll be at the local festivals and in classrooms and bookstores. And I hope if you’re in the Hudson Valley, you’ll come out and say hello!

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