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with author Charlotte Offsay

Hi Tara! Thank you for having me on your blog today and for hosting the cover reveal of my upcoming picture book HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER!

Charlotte, please tell us about the book!

If your grown-ups bring home a small monster, er, baby, don’t panic. Just send it back!

HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER is a humorous how to story about a child who can’t believe it when her parents bring home a fussy, stinky, parent-stealing monster. She hatches a plan to send it back to where it came from… and along the way, she learns that maybe siblings aren’t so bad after all.

Do you have a fun behind-the-scenes story about creating the book that you’d like to share?

I tend to get my story ideas from the things in my life that are taking up the most room in my heart. When I first began writing what would eventually become HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER, I was consumed with second-time mom guilt about no longer being able to give my daughter the same amount of attention. She was just starting pre-school and I felt terrible separating from her for the first time and spending that time with her baby brother.

I had also heard countless stories from friends of how older siblings were reacting to having a new baby at home. I heard everything from ignoring to harming, and while it was clear these children loved their new siblings, one overarching theme prevailed—it was a hard adjustment for the older sibling to no longer be the sole focus of their parents’ attention.

My worries about my daughter made their way to the written page and I began writing a story about an older sibling feeling replaced by a new baby. ​I first wrote a traditional narrative arc story about a train feeling replaced by a shiny new train, but the story felt too much like a sad twist on Toy Story. ​

I wanted to capture and normalize the emotions around feeling replaced, but I also wanted to write a fun and entertaining story that kids would be able to connect to in a positive way. After one long brainstorming (venting) session with my husband, I realized that in order for the story to work it needed humor. I kept re-envisioning characters and story structure and eventually arrived at a humorous how-to story about a child who tries to return her sibling in the mail. This is the manuscript that is being illustrated by the talented Rea Zhai and will be published this September by Beaming Books.

How did you find your publisher?

I first connected with Beaming Books during #PBPITCH on Twitter.

I was querying at the time and had just been asked for more work by my now agent, the wonderful Nicole Geiger at Full Circle Literary. I signed with Nicole and we accepted the offer from Beaming Books!

Any words of advice for aspiring PB authors?

Don’t be scared to take the core concept/heart of your manuscript and start over. Play with structure, try an entirely different narrator, change the setting – you may just discover the key to unlocking that stubborn work-in-progress! Happy writing!

Blog readers, Beaming Books is giving away a copy of HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER when it’s released! Just leave one comment to enter.

A random winner will be selected.

Good luck!


Credit: NataliaL Photography

CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again. She is the author of, The Big Beach Cleanup, (Albert Whitman 2021). How to Return a Monster is publishing this September from Beaming Books, followed by A Grandma’s Magic, publishing in March 2022 from Doubleday Books for Young Readers. 

Learn more about Charlotte’s work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @COffsay and on  Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.

Charlotte Offsay is celebrating her picture book debut with a cover reveal of THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP, illustrated by Katie Rewse, publishing in March 2021 with Albert Whitman. This book also happens to be a Storystorm Success Story!

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is about Cora, a young girl who joins hands with her local community to clean up plastic litter along the seashore and save the local sandcastle competition.

Congratulations on your debut picture book, Charlotte! Do you have a fun story about the making of the book you’d like to share?

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP was the result of a few Storystorm ideas colliding. (As many of you reading this already know, for the month of January Tara Lazar runs Storystorm, where a number of kidlit creators help the writing community get their creative juices flowing and develop picture book ideas, which many of us then use to fuel our picture book writing for the rest of the year.)

During Storystorm I write down anything and everything that inspires me. My three-year-old son had just begun his superhero phase (which two years later is still going strong—maybe not a phase?) and I wanted him to clean up his toys before school. I attempted to motivate him by pretending we were superheroes who needed to clean up to save the world (whatever works right?!). Unfortunately, he saw right through my plot and responded with “I don’t feel like being a superhero today.” My first thought was “yea, I don’t feel much like a superhero today, either.” This thought stuck with me as I had to jog with the stroller uphill to get him and his five-year-old sister to pre-school on time. I added “I don’t feel like a superhero today” to my Storystorm list.

Later that month on one of our walks back from pre-school (which were always more leisurely that our walks to pre-school), as we paused to inspect whatever flower/leaf/bug my kids had spotted, I casually picked up a piece of trash and tossed it into a nearby garbage can. My kids immediately wanted to know what I was doing. Why was there trash outside? Who had put it there? Why was it important to throw it away? Their inquisitive nature lead to a series of environmental discussions, which resulted in their relentlessly pointing out garbage everywhere we went and “doing our part” eventually made its way onto my list.

Stay with me—this is the final puzzle piece, I promise. As part of my Storystorm process, I also look back to my lists from previous years for ideas that I still wanted to pursue. For a couple of years in a row I had written “how many hands.” This stemmed from my passionate belief that if we can convince enough hands to join together, we can change the world. I hadn’t found a path forward for this idea so I added it to my 2019 list.

These three Storystorm ideas…

  • not feeling like a superhero
  • doing our part to clean up after ourselves
  • and small hands joining together to change the world

…collided and I wrote what will be my debut picture book: THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP.

Tell us more about the story!

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is about Cora, a young girl who plans to be a sandcastle-building champion. When the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach, Cora’s plans come to a halt. Cora and her Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem.

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP introduces young readers to the impact of human trash on the environment. With practical solutions for tackling the plastic problem, this heartfelt story demonstrates that a person doesn’t have to be a superhero to make big change. By joining hands with those around them and doing their part, they can change the world.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated to Heal the Bay.

How did you find your publisher?

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is being published by Albert Whitman. I was fortunate to connect with my editor, Christina Pulles, during an Inked Voices workshop. My agent, the wonderful Nicole Geiger at Full Circle Literary then submitted THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP to Christina when it went out on submission last summer.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring PB authors?

The journey to publication is a rollercoaster—don’t get off the ride before you get your yes!

Charlotte is giving back to the PB community by offering a critique to one lucky blog commenter.

Leave a comment below to enter.

A random winner will be chosen next month.

Good luck!


When Charlotte Offsay isn’t busy building sandcastles with her husband and two small children, she can be found dreaming up and writing picture book manuscripts at home in Los Angeles, California. She passionately believes in the power of small hands joining together to make big change and wrote this book with the hopes of empowering young readers to follow in Cora’s footsteps. Her second picture book HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER is publishing in Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. Read more about Charlotte and her books at charlotteoffsay.com or follow her on Twitter @COffsay and Instagram @picturebookrecommendations. Her debut picture book THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP from Albert Whitman can be pre-ordered at BAM.

 

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January 2, 2022

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April 2022

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