Howard Pearlstein is the author of 10 picture books that have been translated into five languages and an advertising copywriter who has worked on some of the world’s most popular brands, including Toyota, Verizon and Mitsubishi. A California native, Howard now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Debi. Howard has three daughters, Amanda, Jacquie and Emily, who live across the country, and one dog, Maeby, who still lives at home. Visit Howard's website to learn more about him and his books.
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
My picture book career began in 2018. I was an advertising creative director at the time, but I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work and the guest said something along the lines of, “We spend our best years giving our creativity away to other people.” I can’t remember the podcast or who the person was that said that, but it struck a chord with me. Advertising is literally just that – giving your creativity away to other people. I looked back at my career and was proud of the work I had done, but I had nothing personal to show for it. I started thinking about what I could do for myself and realized that ads are like little stories, where the words and pictures have to work together to communicate a message. I figured if I could do these little stories, I could write little stories for children.
When I got home, I told my wife I was going to write picture books. She of course supported me, but I actually had no idea how to do it. So, I Googled, “How to write a picture book.” That’s how my career began.
2. What’s the best piece of advice a mentor has given you?
"Writers write." It's a simple piece of advice, but that's what it means to be a writer. Without doing that, you'll always be "aspiring."
3. What advice would you give aspiring kidlit authors?
Don't stress about the rejections or take them personally. Orange Porange was my first book, published in 2020. Since then, I've written dozens of other manuscripts and my email is overflowing with nothing but rejections -- and I think all of these stories are better than Orange Porange. While the rejections are disappointing, they motivate me to write something better the next time.
4. Where did you get the idea for The Liebrary? What was your inspiration?
Driving home one day in April of 2021, I passed by a library and it occurred to me that the word “library” sounds the same whether it’s spelled correctly or “liebrary.”
Around that time, the term “fake news” was all over TV and social media and, unfortunately, a lot of people tended to believe whatever story aligned with their viewpoints – no matter how fantastical or unrealistic the stories might have been. I thought it would be interesting to tell a story about the consequences of believing everything you read without thinking critically about what is actually being said. I wanted to create a story that was fun and funny, but also showed the importance of using critical thinking skills when faced with unbelievable “facts.”
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 day one, The Liebrary was always the title for this project. No one in the process ever suggested changing it to anything else.
6. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?
My secret is that I had a secret weapon for writing this book – my daughter Amanda. I wrote a draft and thought it was okay, but knew it could be better. My oldest daughter, Amanda, and I had already collaborated on one book, Tribeca, published by Marshall Cavendish, so I knew she could improve this story. Sure enough, she took my Corolla of a manuscript and transformed it into a Lexus. It was so much fun working together. We each saw ways to push the story and tweaked it for a few rounds over the course of a week – adding scenes, fine-tuning the rhyme and meter, brainstorming titles for the “liebrary” books and sharing our visions for the illustrations.