My dear online friend, Ashley Franklin, recently launched her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, illustrated by Ebony Glenn, and it’s now available, delighting and empowering young readers everywhere. Here’s a link to the publisher’s website.
I’m grateful to have been watching the preparations for this launch, and to have been retweeting my fingers off as she did interview after interview during the launch period.
Beth: Thanks, Ashley, for giving me the opportunity to do this after-launch interview. Your delightful book character, Tameika, is now out in the world. Congratulations! What was the whole launch process like for you?
Ashley: Thanks, Beth! I was extremely nervous about the launch, so I planned it strategically to build up my comfort level. My absolute first event was at a preschool where my sister is one of the teachers.
I’ve also had two Barnes & Noble events that were quite special to me. The first was in Maryland, where I grew up. It was an awesome feeling being with family and friends. It was also special to me because my grandma (Mom-Mom, as I call her) was able to attend. I dedicated the book to her, so that definitely pulled on the heart strings.
The second Barnes & Noble event was special because I got a chance to do a joint reading with Wendy Greenley, author of Lola Shapes the Sky. We are in the same debut group and met online. It’s great when you can connect with your Internet friends in person.
I have a couple of events left still, and I think I’m most glad that I’ve been able to meet readers face-to-face. I like hearing their takeaways and being able to give them little things like stickers and buttons.
Oh, and I can’t forget about the amazing feedback we’ve been getting via social media! I’ve had a blast doing interviews and podcasts. It’s been so touching seeing parents post pictures of their children with the book. It’s a phenomenal feeling when you finally get to see your book in the hands of the kids you’re writing for.
Beth: I wanted to underline the last two lines of the last paragraph there. I can imagine it’s a phenomenal feeling indeed. And those events sound fabulous! I’d love to be able to be at one. Since that’s not possible, my readers and I will imagine you’re showing us your book in person. Could we get a glimpse of one of your favorite spreads in NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE?
Ashley: Sure! This is my favorite spread because it highlights Tameika’s closeness with her parents—and not just her mom, but her dad as well. I really love how the supportive family comes across. It’s just a really tender moment when Tameika is getting the reassurance that she needs, and I think that Ebony did a wonderful job of capturing it.
Beth: Lovely. Perfect melding of text and illustration. Thank you. After hearing what fun you’ve been having in your launch events, what are your thoughts now as the launch-dust settles and you get into your new normal as a published author?
Ashley: I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m currently out on submission, but I also find myself letting the feedback from Not Quite Snow White resonate while I continue to write new stories. The writing journey is continuous, so my new normal isn’t much different from my old normal. I’m going to keep trying to write the best stories that I can.
Beth: Good point. Just keep writing. I spent some time on your website, and particularly loved what you said about why you write: “I write because I want to help more kids see the magic within themselves.” Could you say more about that, where that comes from, and where you hope to go with it?
Ashley: Kids are just filled with hope, potential, and imagination. To me, that’s a magical foundation. It’s something that we adults have been blessed with the task of nurturing—whether that be as parents, educators, family, etc.
I hope to write stories that truly resonate with children that can help them to see that they can shine brilliantly regardless of their situation. Particularly for children who may not come from ideal situations, they especially need to trust and believe in themselves. They need to know that there’s something special inside of them, something magical if you will, that gives them the ability to succeed.
Beth: Oh, how I love that. That’s so important. Now, you’re probably asked this next question every time you turn around, but — I know you have two active kids. How do you find time to write while raising them to be the delightful kids I know they are? What have their thoughts been in this whirlwind book-launch time?
Ashley: My kids are having the time of their lives with their grandmother while I’m doing these launch activities. They are the first to get pictures after an event, and we FaceTime so we can talk all about it. They’re my beta readers, so they’ve been supportive for the longest.
Their constant support is what gives me the time to write. We will sit around the kitchen table, and my 5yo colors or practices his letters while my 7yo draws and I write. Other times it’s about making the most of each moment—writing while making dinner, writing while my 7yo is at taekwondo, or writing after they’ve both gone to bed.
Beth: I love the mental image those words give, of all of you engaged in creative activities at once. Circling back to thoughts about the launch, do you have any advice for other writers who are looking forward to and planning for their debut releases?
Ashley: Do what makes you comfortable, and surround yourself with loved ones. You only get one first book, so enjoy it.
Also, if you’re going to do swag, take advantage of sales! Picture books can take two years to come out. That leaves you with plenty of time to plan for and purchase swag.
Beth: Excellent advice. “You only get one first book, so enjoy it.” YES! Besides delighting that Tameika is now out in the world, and helping her make her way in that world, what is next for you, in terms of your writing?
Ashley: I’m still working on picture books, but I’m also dabbling with middle grade. I like challenging myself with writing different things, and I have my sights set on reaching a slightly older audience in addition to the picture book audience.
Beth: Super! You’ve got a lot to give, and I’m very happy to hear you’re working toward reaching out to older kids as well. Before we leave your launch experience, can you give us some links to previous interviews? I know there were some fabulous ones.
Ashley: Sure: I’ve done a few podcasts and interviews. You can find the full list on my website, http://ashleyfranklinwrites.com/not-quite-snow-white/ but here are the most recent:
The Children’s Book Podcast w/ Matthew Winner: linked here.
Justin Colón Books:
Beth: Thanks so much, Ashley, for being on my blog today, and for being such a lovely part of my community of writing friends. I wish you and Tameika all the best!
Ashley: Thanks for having me, Beth!
Ashley Franklin is an African-American Muslim writer, mother, and adjunct college professor.
Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (published 7/9/19), is a tender story of an African-American girl who must dispel doubts about her ability to play a traditionally non-minority princess—Princess Snow White.
Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her husband and two sons. Their favorite pastime is “park-hopping” and exploring the many nature trails in their area.
For more information, visit Ashley’s website: www.ashleyfranklinwrites.com.