by Molly Ruttan

Hi Tara! Before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank you for having me on your incredible blog! I am a big fan of yours—it’s such a pleasure to be here!

The roots for my new picture book SOMETHING WILD (Feb 28, 2023, Nancy Paulsen Books), which is about overcoming stage fright, go back to my childhood. When I was in second grade, my mother signed me up for violin lessons. I loved playing, but the stress of performing was too much for me—I ended up quitting the orchestra and sadly giving up the instrument altogether.

Fortunately, stage fright didn’t stop me from loving music and performing, and I’ve enjoyed being the drummer, back-up singer or both in many rock bands over the years. But the days leading up to performances were always (and still are) full of anxiety for me. What finally helped me manage was when I realized that I could rely on my muscle memory and my discipline to pull me through, in spite of my mind, which was busy panicking. This awareness has given me a great sense of comfort. It especially has helped once I am on stage—even to the extent that I actually can enjoy being there!

Here I am with The BumbleBeez, a kids rock band, circa mid 90s. Even though we performed for kids, I would still have anxiety on the days leading up to performances. I was the drummer and backup singer, (but not the original one; I recorded some singles, but I’m not on the albums) with Leanne Sterling (l) & David Scheffler (m). You can find the music on Apple Music & Spotify.


When it was time to create the final art for Something Wild, I began listening to a lot of violin music to get into the flow. I became totally inspired to pick up where I left off as a kid, and start playing again! I had a viola that had belonged to my mother, so I started taking lessons. I’ve been learning for about two months now. Here I am, playing the violin as a kid, and playing the viola now.

The book itself started to take form when I was pre-published and taking a class with Marla Frazee. She had given us the task of illustrating a sequence, and since I was performing a lot at that time, I was inspired to try and illustrate how stage fright felt for me. I painted a short narrative about a girl who was afraid to perform, but when she took the stage and remembered how much she loved to play, the world around her transformed into something wild and beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a book, but I couldn’t figure out what came next.

Several years later when I was working on my author/illustrator debut THE STRAY (2020, Nancy Paulsen Books), an SCBWI regional mingle coordinator asked me if I would present my “Path to Publication”. I said yes, but I was terrified. My stage fright kicked in, and I had many sleepless nights leading up to the event. To calm myself, I decided to use the strong emotion I was feeling to try to generate a new book. I started writing down how I was feeling, and all of a sudden I remembered my illustrations. The sequence I had drawn was the end of a story, not the beginning! I feel forever grateful for that presentation experience, which caused me so much anxiety—without it I would not have discovered the beginning of this book.

Presenting my “Path to Publication” at the SCBWI Regional mingle, 2018.


Some of the members in my Illustration Collective The Mullberries at a book-signing for Marla Frazee’s book Little Brown (2018, Beach Lane Books). Left to right: Helen Yoon, Judy Faulkner, Gail Buschman, myself, Annelouise Mahoney, Joy Dabby and April Zufelt. Not pictured: Jackie Huang, Danielle Heitmuller, Heidi Aubrey and Tricia Candemeres.

I spent the next several months working out the details with the help of a group of fantastic, talented friends. (We are now an Artist’s Collective called The Mulberries.) I am so grateful for them, and for my agent, Rachel Orr, for supporting me all along the way. And of course I am deeply thankful to Nancy Paulsen, for publishing it! Her wonderful expertise along with my brilliant art director Cecilia Yung—and the whole amazing team at Penguin—brought it to life! I hope that Hannah’s story will provide a comforting and entertaining journey for other anxious kids (and adults) to embrace, and an inspiration for them to try allowing something wild happen for them, too!

Interior spreads from SOMETHING WILD written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

Thank you for sharing your wild journey with us, Molly!

I think many introverted writers can relate to the SOMETHING WILD story.

Blog readers, Molly is giving away a delightful prize pack: a book, a sticker sheet, a round sticker & a bookmark. Just leave one comment below to enter and a random winner will be selected next month. (How about telling us if you get stage fright?)

Good luck!

Molly Ruttan grew up making art and music in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art. Molly now lives in the diverse and historic neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles. She played violin as a child, plays drums, sings in a community choir and has just started learning the viola. She loves exploring all kinds of fine art and illustration mediums, including making her own animated book trailers. Her life is full of art, music, family, friends and all kinds of pets and urban animals.

Molly’s titles include her author/illustrator debut, THE STRAY, (Nancy Paulsen Books); I AM A THIEF! by Abigail Rayner, (North South Books); and VIOLET AND THE CRUMBS: A Gluten-Free Adventure by Abigail Rayner (North South Books). SOMETHING WILD is Molly’s second author/illustrated book and has received a starred Kirkus review. She has two additional books forthcoming.

Molly is represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency. To contact Molly, purchase books & view her book trailers, go to