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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Norene Paulson

Norene Paulson is a word-loving, book-reading, story-writing kid lit author. Growing up in South Dakota, Norene spent long hours exploring the frontier with Laura Ingalls Wilder and solving mysteries with Nancy Drew. Now grown up and living in Iowa, Norene, a former middle school language arts teacher, writes picture books that celebrate friendship, acceptance, and inclusion. She is the author of Benny's True Colors, illustrated by Anne Passchier (Macmillan, 2020), What's Silly Hair Day with No Hair? illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Albert Whitman, 2021), and her latest, Nila's Perfect Coat, illustrated by Maria Mola (Beaming Books, 2023).

1. What kind of student were you? What were your favorite subjects?

I was a quiet, introverted student who often knew the answers to questions but didn’t want to draw attention to myself by raising my hand. No surprise my favorite subjects were any that involved words...reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary. I was that student who lived for silent reading time and trips to the library. If we had indoor recess due to inclement weather, I usually chose to read.

2. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring kidlit authors?

The best piece of advice I can give aspiring kidlit authors is “believe it will happen and be patient.” There is no expiration or “best if used by” date on your publishing dreams. I know because I speak from experience. I’d been writing and querying for over THREE decades before I signed with my agent. My first book deal came six weeks later at auction. If this can happen to me, there’s no reason it can’t happen to you unless you give keep believing in yourself.

3. To what extent is your writing inspired by your own experience, or by watching your children’s experiences?

My writing is totally inspired by my children’s experiences and my experiences as a former middle school teacher. Having raised two boys and having been a classroom teacher/mom to a countless number of middle school kids, I know what an emotional roller coaster growing up is and how important it is for every child to have access to stories which exemplify the positives: inclusion, acceptance, and compassion. These attributes need to be developed at an early age and reinforced continually so children grow up and become caring and empathetic adults.

4. Where did you get the idea for Nila's Perfect Coat? What was your inspiration?

I love everything about thrift store shopping except when, as a former middle school teacher, I would see my students while shopping. They always looked embarrassed and uncomfortable. They clearly didn’t want me to see them thrift shopping, and while I always respected the anonymity they desired, the stigma attached to thrifting bothered me...a lot. That’s when I realized I wanted to write a story that normalized thrift store shopping. Not a story about thrifting, but a story where thrift stores were simply where the main character shopped.

5. How was the editorial process? Did you do any revisions? Did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?

The editorial process went well with no major changes to the story text. However, the back matter was a different story. My editor felt the original back matter was too broad and disconnected from the storyline, so we ended up scrapping 90 percent of it. Focusing on the national nonprofit and ways kids can help “share warmth” by donating coats, holding fundraisers, and organizing coat drives was the best decision and jumpstarted a wonderful collaboration with the One Warm Coat organization.

I saw rough sketches of Maria Mola’s illustrations as the art work progressed, but there was little need for any input from me. Maria, the art director, and my editor totally rocked it.

6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?

After reading this book, I would like kids to think about several things. First, what’s the difference between “needs” and “wants”? Second, when is “enough enough”? Third, what impact can they make in their school, in their community, in someone else’s life?

I hope Nila’s story empowers kids to become compassionate and empathic doers and problem-solvers.

SIX QUESTIONS is scheduling authors and illustrators into 2024. If you're a traditionally published picture book or middle-grade creator, drop an email to and let's see how we can fit you in!

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1 Comment

Joy Moore
Joy Moore
Nov 28, 2023

Hello fellow Iowan!

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