Frequently Asked Questions with Kate Salley Palmer
1. How and when did you start writing?
I started writing when I was very young – just for myself. I wrote poetry and plays, and lots of letters. I didn’t start getting published until I began working for the newspaper as a cartoonist. Sometimes they let me write a story or a column.
2. How long have you been illustrating picture books?
I started writing and illustrating picture books when I stopped doing political cartoons for the newspaper in about 1989.
3. How do you get ideas for your books?
I get ideas from lots of places. Anything that interests you can be the start of an idea. Just ask yourself, “what if?” Your story can build from there.
4. Is writing and illustrating books fun?
It’s lots of fun for me. I don’t like to do anything that isn’t fun. You may have fun doing something different, and that’s ok. It’s just that for me, writing and drawing come easy – almost like play, so that’s what I like to do.
5. What was your first book you wrote?
The first book I wrote was The Pink House, but I keep finding these old, old poems I wrote and forgot about. In 2013, at Salley’s suggestion, I turned one of those old poems about unconditional love into a book for Christmas entitled, I Know Santa Very Well.
6. Is it hard to be a writer or illustrator?
Being a writer and an illustrator is easy for me. It’s lots of work, but I love to do the work, so it isn’t hard. There are some things that are easy for you to do that would be hard for me!
7. Why did you choose to write about black Americans in the Revolutionary War?
I chose to write about black Americans because Marshall Ellerbe, a young black 3rd grade student, asked me if there were any black heroes of the Revolution, and I did not know the answer. Whenever I come across something I don’t know about, I think maybe others need to know too.
8. How do you make sure everything in your history books is true?
I do a lot of research reading books, especially, and take lots of notes. I don’t use a fact unless it appears in at least three books. I keep the resources I use close by when I’m writing, just in case anything needs checking. I always put a bibliography in my non-fiction books in case anyone wants to do further research on the subjects covered in the books.
9. What is your favorite book that you have written and/or illustrated?
It would be hard to choose among the books to find a favorite. I like them all for different reasons, yet there are things about each one that I would change if I had the chance.
10. How do you get a book published?
It is very hard to get a children’s book published today by an established national publisher. Most big publishers are only publishing books by authors they know, and therefore most first-time authors have difficulty even getting a manuscript looked at. We publish our books ourselves – it’s called self-publishing. We write and illustrate our books, then edit, design and digitize them on the computer. Then we turn the book in digital format over to a printer and the printer prints and binds the books to our specifications.
11. Who are some of your favorite children’s authors or illustrators?
Among my favorite children’s authors would have to be Cynthia Rylant. She wrote, When the Relatives Came and some other books I really like. Margaret Wise Brown is another of my favorites. She wrote wonderful books like Goodnight Moon and TheRunaway Bunny. I also loved Will James’ book, Smokey, the Cow Horse.