Six Questions with Christy Mihaly
Christy Mihaly is a former lawyer who decided a decade ago that writing for kids was much more fun. Her new picture book, Patience, Patches! (Dial Books), is narrated by an energetic dog whose patience is tested when a baby joins the family. Christy has written more than 30 books, mostly nonfiction. Her recent picture books include The Supreme Court and Us (Albert Whitman & Company, 2022); WATER: A Deep Dive of Discovery (Barefoot Books, 2021); Free for You and Me (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020); and Hey, Hey, Hay! (Holiday House, 2018). She also practices playing cello from time to time, and loves to walk her dog in the Vermont woods. To learn more about Christy and her work, please visit her website.
1. What are you working on? What's next for you?
I feel like I'm just emerging from a two-year tunnel into the light. I'm preparing and planning and finally doing school visits this spring – yay! In-person book joy! And I'm looking forward to being part of a multi-author celebration later in April at my local indie bookstore. For two years we've had no such events, and it's great to be planning to gather again with book people.
But you probably meant what am I writing? I've just turned in the manuscript for a book about renewable energy, and I'm now doing research for a middle grade biography. I also am trying to write a collection of poems.
2. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time?
Hah. See above. Yes. I may be editing one manuscript while trying out a new idea for a new story. Then an editor might send the illustrator's sketches for a picture book and ask me for comments. I love working on multiple projects. It keeps things exciting! And when I get stuck on one project, I can work on another for a spell.
3. Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, how do you get unstuck?
Double hah. See above.
I do get stuck. We all get stuck. Sometimes I'm stuck for the right word or phrase. Other times, I can't figure out how to structure a book. Or I just might feel like I'll never again in my life have a good idea.
I usually find something else to work on. If it's not another manuscript, it might be reviewing a recent book, or critiquing a partner's draft. Or promoting a book. If not … I go for a walk. That usually unsticks something.
Another remedy is to write a poem. Even a bad poem feels like an accomplishment: "There! See, I've written a new work today! I'm not an utter failure."
4. Where did you get the idea for Patience, Patches? What was your inspiration?
Not surprisingly, I got the idea for Patience, Patches from my family's experience with a dog (not named Patches) and my new baby. I found it fascinating and heartwarming to watch as our beautiful dog gradually figured out that this smelly little bundle was a new family member. And it was lovely to watch their relationship develop. Our dog truly became our child's protector and friend, though she also remained jealous!
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?
From the first draft, it was always "Patience, Patches!" I think we may have gone back and forth on the exclamation point, but other than that, the title never changed. (I should point out that the manuscript went through many, many drafts, and I changed many other aspects of the story.) This is the only one of my picture books that didn't go through multiple title changes. I guess "Patience, Patches" is just right for this story. It's about patience, a big topic for the picture book crowd, and I like the alliteration.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
Ah, great question. This is a story about waiting. And it's also about being a family and loving one another.
I'd want kids to take away the message that although waiting can be difficult, they can do it when they need to – and that waiting can bring sweet rewards.