Six Questions with C.K. Malone
C.K. Malone (they/them) is a bigender award-winning educator and literature coach at the secondary level. When not grading essays or helping students, they're busy helping design culturally and LGBTQIA+ responsive units for their school district and working as a climate and culture coach. When they're not writing, they're coaching and advising through alignment with the Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Network. C.K.'s debut picture book, A Costume for Charly, was released earlier this month by Beaming Books. To learn more about C.K., visit their website.
1. If you could be any character in a book, who would you be? Why?
Callie in Esme Symes-Smith’s soon-to-be-released middle-grade fantasy, Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston. I just adore it. Follow them (@EsmeSymesSmith) on Twitter! You can read the excerpts they post. Flipping unbelievable. So much talent!
2. Do you ever struggle to come up with your next project? Or do you have lots of ideas and find it a challenge to narrow down your ideas?
Ha! My critique group told me to tell Tara Lazar about this (BTW, follow @taralazar on Twitter). Tara’s amazing blog month is Story Storm. I took part in it in 2021 (and 2022) and was still pretty new to the writing community. Because I don’t read instructions – my ding dong fault – I *thought* we had to generate a new PB each day, not simply an idea. It was only once I spoke to the critique group that I realized I pushed myself to basically write 30 picture books in one month. I didn’t win from any of the blog posts, but I’m not surprised because a bajillion people enter. I have LOTS of ideas and now save them on a template Mindy (@mindyalyseweiss on Twitter) created for Story Storm. We did get a good laugh out of it, though. And now I have a ton of books in major need of revisions. My poor agent Dan ...
3. When you begin writing a book, do you always know where the story is going?
I do, actually. My neurodiversity, as such, causes me to fixate on items until I am ready to write. My critique group always asks how I can bang out a PB in one sitting. This made me laugh. I ruminate on an idea for weeks before I sit down. My neurodiversity doesn’t allow me to get out of my seat – once I am finished thinking – without writing a complete first draft. It can be a blessing but also very hard. I will wake up in the middle of the night to write even though I have a very long day job the next morning. Fixating is a powerful thing, apparently.
4. Where did you get the idea for A Costume for Charly? What was your inspiration?
Ummm…me? This is my literal coming-out story. It freaks me out every hour on the hour to know Charly is finally out in the world. But I keep reminding myself no matter what I face releasing this picture book, it doesn’t compare to the hatred children who identify face every single day. Your identity is born in you even if you don’t have the words for it as a child or teen. Luckily – unlike when I was a child or teen who identified – we now have LGBTQIA2+ groups who make sure to share all the different identities with kiddos and parents and communities alike.
5. Was this always the title for this project? If not, what other titles did you consider and how did you land on this one?
AHHHHHH! I am so fortunate the title I chose is the title of my debut picture book. Both my agent and my editor, the divine Cherrita Lee, as well as Beaming Books and the marketing team adored the title. I cannot imagine it as anything else.
6. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?
I shared Charly without the illustrations to my various GSA groups. I cried. They cried. Then, I believe, we ate a horrible cake (I’m awesome at cooking, baking no) and chips and watched the animated short “In a Heartbeat” and had a discussion about how things are beginning to change for our community. That's a large run-on sentence. Go, ELA! LOL!