Six Questions with Elisa Boxer
Elisa Boxer is an Emmy and Murrow award winning journalist whose work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Fast Company and Inc. magazine. She has reported for newspapers, magazines, and TV stations, and has a passion for telling stories about people finding the courage to create change. She is the author of The Voice That Won the Vote, A Seat at the Table, One Turtle's Last Straw, and this summer's forthcoming SPLASH! and Covered in Color. Elisa lives in Maine. Visit Elise's website to learn more about her work.
1. What kind of student were you? What were your favorite subjects?
I was soooo painfully shy. I know this because, well, I remember the feeling, but also because it showed up on report cards as comments like "too quiet" and "I wish she'd come out of her shell." So, like many sensitive kiddos, I grew up thinking I was defective for being quiet and pensive, and pushed myself to be something I wasn't, which only made things worse. But as far back as I can remember, I found solace in reading and writing. The page was always where I was comfortable feeling and expressing. And so now, one of my main messages to young readers is to embrace their intrinsic value, and to see their sensitivity as a gift. I have a picture book coming out in 2024 about embracing your true nature. It hasn't been announced yet, but when it is, I can't wait to share more!
2. What are your daily or weekly habits and practices?
My writing life looks so different every day, especially now that I am in the middle of launching three books! Every day is a mix of drafting, revising, research, virtual visits, and marketing. An exciting season, for sure, but it leaves very little time for actual writing. So I'm finding that I need to be even more efficient with my time if I want to squeeze in work on my manuscripts in progress. Having said that, I am finding new ways to move my current manuscripts forward, which I wrote about in this post for the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.
3. What are you working on? What's next for you?
It's a busy summer! I'm gearing up for the launch (July 15!) of my next picture book, SPLASH! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change. It's the story of a young gutsy girl with polio who became the first American woman to win Olympic gold in swimming. She pretty much changed rules and broke barriers everywhere she went! It's illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley and published by Sleeping Bear Press.
Then, on August 16, we launch a picture book about two visionary artists who challenged convention: Covered in Color : Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Fabrics of Freedom. It's another true story of people who pulled off the seemingly impossible, illustrated by Susanna Chapman and published by Abrams.
4. Where did you get the idea for One Turtle's Last Straw? What was your inspiration?
I knew I wanted to write a book about the impact of plastic products on marine life, but I hadn't yet narrowed my focus. In my preliminary research phase, I came across a video of some marine biologists who saved a sea turtle's life by extracting a plastic straw from his nose. I tracked down the scientist who filmed the rescue, and she told me that this was likely the result of someone casually tossing a straw in the trash. She told me that even in landlocked communities, straws can blow into storm drains and make their way into rivers, then oceans, where they can have devastating effects on marine life. As she was talking, I was imagining an opening scene of a picture book, where a boy tosses his cup in the trash. Voila! The book was born.
5. How was the editorial process? Did you do any revisions? Did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?
Working with Emily Easton at Crown/Random House kids was a phenomenal experience. She shared not only my vision for the story and my empathy for the turtle's plight, but also my passion for raising awareness about the plastic pollution problem. The revisions mostly consisted of expanding the back matter: Adding an afterword from Christine Figgener, the marine biologist who rescued the turtle and filmed the viral video, and rounding out the section on kids tackling the single-use plastics problem. I was thrilled to partner with illustrator Marta Alvarez Miguens. With picture books, it varies how much contact the author and illustrator have, and I always love it when I am able to connect with the illustrator during the process, as I did with Marta. I am in awe of her art, and how she managed to portray the sea turtle as realistic and believable, yet so emotionally resonant and relatable. She explains more about this in an interview I did with her.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
On the surface, this is a book about the impact of plastic pollution. But the deeper message, to me, is that every choice we make, in every area of our lives, has a ripple effect. On the front endpaper is the question: What if one small choice had the power to change the world? That's the message I want kids to take away from the book -- that every conscious choice they make, in every moment, has more power than they can imagine.