Six Questions with Roxanne Troup
Roxanne Troup writes kids books that celebrate wonder and family. With a background in education, she also writes engaging nonfiction for all ages. Roxanne lives in the mountains of Colorado and loves hiking with her family, cheering at her kid's sporting events, and reading a good book. She often visits schools to water seeds of literacy and teach about writing. (And sometimes remembers to water the plants in her own garden.) Visit Roxanne's website to learn more about her and her writing.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to write for young readers?
I’ve always been good at writing (though I hated it in school—who wants to be forced to write?). But I actually studied to become an early education teacher. In my coursework, I discovered the magic of picture books, but I didn’t put the pieces together until after my kids were born. I’d chosen to stay home with them and was looking for a way to supplement our household income. My sister, who was a freelance writer at the time, suggested I try freelancing. In the process of researching that, I stumbled upon the kidlit industry and the lightbulb went off. I could write what I wanted, “teach” outside the classroom, and stay home with my kids!
2. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why?
I was a fluent reader by kindergarten (that’s what comes of having much older siblings) and skipped over a lot of the “typical” children’s books of my era. The first books I have vivid memories reading were Pippi Longstocking and The Borrowers. I could disappear in those worlds for hours at a time. But my all-time favorite picture book (which I don’t remember reading, but do remember refusing to pass on) was Socks for Supper by Jack Kent. It’s absolutely perfect, and I still love it.
3. 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?
As a freelancer, I don’t always have that luxury. I’m usually on a deadline for someone else’s project. For my own books, I have lots of story ideas, but don’t always know which ones will make the best books. Most of the time I just have to start writing to figure that out. When I get stuck, I put it away and move on to something else. (Which explains all the half-finished stories sitting on my hard drive!) Occasionally, I’ll have an epiphany and come back to an old story. I may add a new line or finish the first draft, but then it’s back to deadlines.
4. Where did you get the idea for My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me? What was your inspiration?
Somewhere online I discovered a new publisher looking for agricultural books. As an unagented author, I try to take advantage of every opportunity, so I started researching possible topics. I ran across a YouTube video of a farmer harvesting pecans and was thunderstruck as pecans fell like torrential rain. Growing up in a farming community, I had some experience with agriculture and pecans. But no one I knew harvested pecans by tractor. We gathered pecans like the wild products they were, not from hundreds of trees at a time. This dichotomy provided the structure of the story, and my first draft came together quickly.
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?
Nope. My first draft was titled “Not My Tree,” an echo of the story’s refrain. If you haven’t read the book, a young narrator is comparing the way her grandpa grows and harvests pecans in the orchard with the way the two of them care for and harvest from her special tree. She uses the phrase “but not my tree” to signal each switch.
After a year, I’d gotten good feedback but no contract when an opportunity arose to submit to a different publisher. Yeehoo Press was looking for intergenerational stories and stories with a nonfiction element. My story fit, but I didn’t think the title indicated that, so, I changed it to “Grandpa and Me Plant a Tree.” After Yeehoo offered a contract, we changed the title to My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me to keep the ending a surprise.
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
I hope kids reading the book not only learn about the fascinating process of growing pecans—North America’s only indigenous tree nut—but that they pick up on the subtle message that love, like the pecan tree, grows with time and care. And that familial love multiplies no matter how many “trees” it is given.
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