Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Pam Smallcomb

Happy Friday, everyone!  Joining us today in the cyber coffeehouse is the lovely Pam Smallcomb, whose picture book, EARTH TO CLUNK, was just released this week!

What do bossy  big sisters, dirty socks, and old lasagna have in common?

They’re all things you send to your alien pen pal Clunk to make it clear you do NOT want an alien pen pal. But when Clunk fires back with an annoying Zoid, three smelly Forps, and a weird (but tasty!) glob, well, you may have met your match!  Deadpan comedy, vibrant artwork, an unexpected friendship, and an uproarious surprise ending will have kids laughing all the way back to the start of this sweet-in-spite- of-itself story.

Congratulations, Pam!  And while she’s getting comfy in our C & C chair with her latte with steamed milk . . .

and her favorite snack, almonds and walnuts . . .


… allow me to make two quick announcements:

First, I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post how Sarah Sullivan will be one of our presenters at the first SCBWI event for our West Virginia members this Saturday, May 14th at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV.  Other presenters are WV authors and SCBWI members, Anna Smucker and Marc Harshman.  Watch for more details and photos next week!

Also, at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, there will be an excellent panel at 10:30 am with several Mid-Atlantic SCBWI authors including Pamela Ehrenberg,  Jacqueline JulesKristin Levine, and Ann McCallum called, “There’s a Children’s Book in Me: How Do I Get it Published?”  Sounds great, ladies!

And now that Pam is cozy, let’s begin!  First, when did you decide to be a writer, Pam?

I never really decided to be a writer. It just snuck up on me while I was trying to be an illustrator. I remember getting an SCBWI crit (I think it was on a picture book!) from someone who told me I had a ‘middle grade voice’. They said it in a nice way, so I took it as a compliment. After I thanked them, I quickly asked everyone I knew at the conference what that meant. It piqued my interest in the genre.

How long did your path to that first glorious book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

I started writing in my mid-30s and I didn’t sell a book until I was 42 (I think). So let’s say about 10 years? I would say that of that time, I wasn’t kicking it into high gear until the last five years. Those beginning years, I was just trying to figure it all out, and I was herding kids. I wasn’t writing every day, I was writing when I wasn’t too tired to think straight. 

My biggest hurdles: exhaustion, free time, self-doubt.

Oh, yeah, sounds VERY familiar. 🙂  Okay, then, seeing how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would have followed?

I would tell that beginner to ignore the market and any and all trends. Write the story you would have loved to have discovered on a bookshelf. Write the book that you would have picked up to read, not what an editor says she is looking for. Don’t be afraid to write outside of what you see in the market. Be brave and please yourself.

Where’s your favorite place to work?   

Oh, dear. Well, I am going to lie. It’s the only way. I can’t keep telling people that I write in a crummy old leather chair with cracks on the arms, and brown duct tape (almost) covering the cracks. That would be embarrassing to keep putting out there on the internet. So instead, let’s say I have a lovely studio. It is light and airy, and in one corner is an antique writing desk, given to me by my dear Uncle Mortimer.

Yeah, it might be embarrassing to tell everyone about your old leather chair, so I promise not to mention it, okay?    Now.  If the paparazzi were taking pictures of odd things authors do while writing, what would be in yours, hmm?  

I don’t do anything terribly odd while I write. I chew Trident gum and drink iced tea (hot tea in the winter). I keep a spiral notebook next to my chair (I mean on my desk!) and I write down all the random thoughts that I get while I am supposed to be writing. You know, like “The light bulb in the bathroom is out.” I’m pretty good about staying on task once it’s writing time. I’m only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom, or get more tea.

How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

EARTH TO CLUNK is actually an idea I had for a chapter book. It came to me around the time the Iraq War began. I thought a lot about how different I am from the people that live there, and in just about every way you can be different. I wondered how my perspective would change if I could get to know just one person from that part of the world. That was the initial nugget. I jotted down an idea for a chapter book where a kid from our planet is forced to interact with a kid from another planet. One day I was searching for ideas for picture books, and decided that this idea could work on that level. EARTH TO CLUNK is a story about two very different kids who become friends through the letters and little gifts they exchange.

Love that answer!  Now, what is your favorite line from this book?

I think it’s:  “My Mom wants my sister back. I do not. You decide.”

Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day?

I would love to write an adult romantic comedy. 

What’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?

Right now I am finishing a long, horribly tedious, simply awful first draft of a memoir of a fictional character. I will be so happy to get to the end of this story so I can start fixing it. Believe me, it needs it.

I am also plotting out a chapter book, and I’m considering finishing one of the ‘orphaned’ novels in my laptop. 

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .

Outline or wing it?   Both; mostly rough outline.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?    Keep it zipped.

Sell by proposal or completed draft?    Completed draft.

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?    Love beginnings. And editing.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?    Marketing: dread, dread, dread.

Read Kindle or traditional books?    Traditional. Until purchase Kindle.

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work?    Morning. Sometimes I can sneak in an hour before dinner.

Music to listen to while writing?    None. It distracts me. I know, I’m weird.

Writing tool?    Laptop. I almost said hammer.

Pair of shoes?    Sneakers.

Guiltiest pleasure?    Buying artwork.

Line from a movie?    “Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?”

Great answers!  Thanks, Pam, for stopping by and best of luck with EARTH TO CLUNK. 🙂

Happy writing, everyone!


About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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3 Responses to Friday Author Focus: Coffee & Conversation with Pam Smallcomb

  1. What an awesome interview! Loved the interview, and Pam! Lois

  2. Susan Mannix says:

    Delightful! I really enjoyed reading this. Bring on more! Thanks Laura & Pam!!!!

  3. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book Friday – Earth to Clunk | Story Patch

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