Kitty O'Meara: Finding Joy and Community in a Pandemic

Debut picture book author Kitty O'Meara shares her experience of writing a viral poem that's been turned into a printed picture book in only a few months about finding joy and community in a pandemic.
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Kitty O’Meara lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, Phillip Hagedorn, their five rescue dogs, three cats, gardens, and books. A former teacher of middle school writing and literature and a hospital and hospice chaplain and currently a spiritual director, O’Meara has been a lifelong writer and artist. And the People Stayed Home is her first print book.

Kitty O'Meara

Kitty O'Meara

(21 authors share one piece of advice for writers.)

In this post, O'Meara shares her experience of writing a viral poem that's been turned into a printed picture book in only a few months about finding joy and community in a pandemic!

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Writing the Picture Book

Picture books are one of the most delightful—and important—genres in all of literature. In this course, you'll learn how to write a winning picture book narrative, envision it with illustrations, and put together a picture package that a publisher will really notice. Plus, you'll receive feedback on each assignment from your instructor and have the chance to participate in the peer critique section of the workshop with other classmates.

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Name: Kitty O'Meara
Book title: And the People Stayed Home
Publisher: Tra Publishing
Release date: November 10, 2020
Genre: Picture Book

Elevator pitch for the book: Quarantine during pandemic can be a time of spiritual and mental re-creation; we can heal ourselves, others, and the Earth, by reorienting our vision and using our gifts.

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What prompted you to write this book?

The need for hope, inspiration, and creative outlet during quarantine.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

The piece was written in about 30 minutes. The co-creation of the book with the amazing team at Tra Publishing began in late April (and it was published November 10, 2020). The text didn't change, but because the layout and illustrations are so integral to a picture book, we had many wonderful and creative sessions discussing their design. 

(5 tips on writing and illustrating children's books from Debbie Ridpath Ohi.)

I am over the moon with joy regarding the finished product: the lively, sensitive art of Stefano Di Cristofaro and Paul Pereda, under the direction of Jefferson Quintana; the editing talent of Andrea Gollin; the promotional and marketing excellence of Andrea Burnett and Lynda Zuber; and the brilliant publishing savvy of Ilona Oppenheim...truly, the themes of the poem were lived out in the creation of this book.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Only in the utter joy the experience offered my life, from beginning to end. This wonderful, creative team of people harnessed my wild imagination and translated it into something tangible; this is an amazing testament to their unique gifts and patience.

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Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

The surprise was having a Facebook post go viral within a few days; life went from the cautious, slow pace of quarantine to warp speed overnight, and maintained that velocity for months. Working with the artists at Tra Publishing was actually calming, affirming, and reassuring. They were my port in the storm.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

The inspiration to take time with their lives and choose ways to use their gifts that will allow them to feel the joy and healing power of creating goodness, beauty, kindness, and community in the world. And I hope that the book will underscore for readers that we have been given one planet to tend and love and that our well-being is dependent upon hers.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Write from your heart and work with publishers you respect and trust, utterly.

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