Hi Carole! Can you talk a bit about your journey in activism and children’s literature. Why did you decide to write children’s books?
I’ve always loved to write and I always thought I would write one day. I just had no idea it would be children’s books. It wasn’t until I had my son that I truly became connected to the kidlit world and realized I had a lot of stories to tell and I love/d children’s books! So, I devoted myself to the craft of writing. As a Native author, I was also saddened to see the lack of books by, and about, Native peoples. I know that I had a very difficult time as a child, seeing myself reflected back to me in books. For the most part, it is still very dismal in terms of Native content today. Although it is certainly on the upswing. And I am thrilled to see it!! Finally!!! It’s not only important that we see ourselves, but that other’s see us as well.
Your fantastic first picture book, Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle (Pemmican Publications, 2013), tells the story of Metisse, a girl who honors her Métis culture and challenges expectations in order to be true to herself. Can you share the story behind this story?
My grandmother was forced into Indian Boarding school when she was a child, so much of my culture/heritage was lost. My mother knew some things about us, and she would often speak about my grandfather playing a ‘mean’ fiddle. As I got older, I wondered why/how a Native person would have played the fiddle. It wasn’t an instrument that I often related to our people. So, I began to research my ancestry through the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, where I am citizen. And I learned that because of my Metis ancestry, the fiddle is a big part of our lives. I wanted to tell a story with the fiddle, but with a main character who believes in herself, even when other people tell her it isn’t possible. I guess because she was me. She is all of us sometimes. I thought other children could relate to the story as well.
You have a poem, “Drops of Gratitude,” in the new anthology, Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Marlena Myles (Lerner/Millbrook, 2019).
To be honest, I was quite nervous when Miranda asked if I would like to write a poem. I think it’s the word poem that freaked me out. Once I thought of it as ‘word play’ it was much easier for me to wrap my brain around. I love to play with words! And when I realized all the different types of poetry available to play with, I was even more excited. I loved the idea of a Found poem, which is what I wrote. It’s basically taking an article, or page from a book or magazine and crossing out the words you don’t want and keeping the ones you do to create an entirely different poem. It’s a lot of fun, and takes the fear out of poetry!
I’m so excited for your forthcoming picture book, We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook Press, 2020). What was the process like for creating this book?
Amazing! It has been amazing. I originally started out the story as a YA novel because of the content and I had so much I wanted to say. But I realized a novel was going to take me way to long, in terms of getting the word out about protecting the water. I decided to write a picture book because it was easier to manipulate and revise 500 words vs. 80,000 words. Not easier, but more manageable, I should say. This is the story with which I landed my amazing agent. But it wasn’t at all the story that it is now. I honestly didn’t see me being able to write THIS story. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn’t think I had it in me. But it came. It comes. You do have to trust the process, as many have told me. And believe in yourself. And then finding Michaela Goade to do the illustrations. That was just a gift. Her work is amazing. It just seemed perfect for the story.
What has nurtured you on this journey so far?
Having a encouraging and supportive friends and family. It’s truly so important to have people in your corner that believe in you and see something you sometimes don’t, or can’t see. They can help turn your mind around so your back at the computer again in no time. Being able to walk outside in nature. And telling stories about my Native relatives to honor their memories and to share their legacies.
What advice would you give to other writers who are starting out and would like to publish stories for children about activism? What advice would you give to other Native American and First Nations book creators?
I would say to get involved in the publishing world and learn about the industry by attending conferences and meeting as many authors, publishers, agents, illustrators, book folks, as you can. Building connections and meeting people is so important. Also continuing to strengthen your writing craft by joining critique groups and getting feedback on your work. For Native and First Nations book creators, get to know other Native book people. There are a bunch of us out here. Check out Debbie Reese’s blog. She is an amazing resource. The upcoming Kweli conference in April is a great chance to meet a bunch of Native authors/illustrators/book creators. Check out We Need Diverse Books website. They have mentorships available and that is an excellent way to get help with story craft.
We are so thrilled that you are now a member of this blog’s editorial team! You have already posted several wonderful interviews, including with Debby Dahl Edwardson, Traci Sorrell, and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Are there certain topics you hope to explore through the blog?
I’m excited to be a part of the team!! YAY!! I appreciate your kind words about my interviews so far. I do like to focus on Native/First Nations’ book creators and their work. I think by being Indigenous and creators they are activists just by being. So, highlighting them and their work is important to me.
What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Gulp…..I cannot even begin to tell you, there are so many. How about if I narrow it down to this week. HA. Right now, I’m loving I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day (Harper Collins, 2019). I also love Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza’s adaptation of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE (Beacon Press, 2019). Such an important book.
Is there anything else you would like to include?
Miigwech for letting me share a bit about me.
Thank you, Carole!
Carole is Anishinabe/Metis and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. She was born and raised in Nebraska and currently makes her home in Maryland.
Carole has been a voracious reader and library geek ever since she was growing up in Nebraska. On weekends you could usually find her at the library lost in the book stacks or holed up in her bedroom with a good book. It wasn’t until she had her son, that she discovered her love of writing for children and began to work seriously on her writing. She is represented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Learn more about Carole at http://www.carolelindstrom.com.