No More Noisy Nights
by Holly L. Niner (Author) and Guy Wolek (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Who is making so much noise and how will Jackson ever get to sleep?

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Guest Post by Holly L. Niner

Holly L. Niner grew up in Newburgh, New York, with her nose in a book and a boogey monster in the basement. She is a speech therapist and the award-winning author of Mr. Worry, I Can’t Stop, and The Day I Ran Away. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with my husband and a lazy, crazy cat. This is her fourth picture book.

Q. Describe your writing process.
A. Thanks, Anastasia, for your interest in my books and my writing process. For me it starts with an idea which can come from anyplace in my life: a snippet of overheard conversation, something I see on TV or read in the paper, a real life event someone shares with me, or just from letting my mind wander during a walk.

Once that idea is planted, I think about it. At some point in the thinking process I usually begin to “hear” some of the story, and then I begin writing. At first, I don’t worry about getting everything right. For instance, if I haven’t decided on a character’s name, I’ll put in a question mark to keep things flowing. If I’m lucky, I might get a complete draft in the first sitting, but I often start writing before I’ve found my way to the end.

The real work begins once the first words are on paper and I continue to think about the story. Can it be stronger? Does it flow? Can I up the excitement level? I work on a laptop and print drafts as I go along because I like to sit in a comfy chair and make edits on paper. Eventually I ask others to read the story and give me their thoughts. It sometimes amazes me how much a final draft differs from the first draft.

Most of the many picture book manuscripts I have written will never be published, but the work is not wasted because each one has the potential to make me a better author. They say there is nothing new to tell, just new ways to tell it. I have sometimes seen a book or read a review with the same idea as one of my unpublished stories. After the sting of seeing my idea published by someone else has worn off, I go back to my manuscript and try to find a different way to tell my story. I’ll occasionally look back at my pile of unfinished stories, to see if an ending pops into my mind.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.
A. The idea for No More Noisy Nights came from a book of daily journal prompts for students. One prompt asked the writer to “compose a letter to the monster under your bed asking him to move.” The first versions of my story were epistolary, with Jackson writing letters and the other characters writing back. When Shari Dash Greenspan, Flashlight Press editor, was considering the story, we worked on several different approaches. One had Jackson as a child helping his grandma move, but we settled on Jackson the mole moving into a new underground home, which Guy Wolek illustrated perfectly.

Personified animals are often used in children’s stories because the animal can experience things a child cannot, for instance, Jackson the mole can live alone. This enables him to face the noises in his home in his own way. Instead of being afraid by them or reacting angrily, he demonstrates empathy for others and problem solving, allowing him to get some sleep and make new friends!

I hope children enjoy exploring Jackson’s home, hearing the noises he hears, and laughing at the silly things he does. Most of all, I hope that Jackson and his friends become their friends too!

Thanks for sharing your new book, Holly!

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