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Interview: LeeAnna Kail, author of ‘The OWL Who Couldn’t WHOO’

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LeeAnna_PhotoLeeAnna Kail grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her loving parents and five siblings. Ever since she was little, LeeAnna had an interest in writing. When she was in the fourth grade, LeeAnna completed a career project and dressed as an author with dreams of writing her own book one day. Her dad, who published a children’s novel last November, has been a major influence on LeeAnna’s writing. Growing up, he would always help her with school papers. Because of that, she adopted some of his writing techniques.

“Writing is an outlet for me,” she stated. “In college, any time I wrote a paper, which was many of them since English was one of my majors, I always listened to the band, The Fray. I would sit at my desk with headphones in and just type.”

LeeAnna Kail’s debut children’s book, The OWL Who Couldn’t WHOO is about Ollie who, unlike other owls, says, “WHEERE!” or “WHEEN!” or “WHYY!” and sometimes “WHAAT!” Because he is different, the other owls tease him. When his little sister gets lost in the forest, Ollie comes up with the idea to use his special words to find her.

LeeAnna really wants children to realize it’s okay to be different and you should learn to love your differences. “My student Cadence, who gave me my book review on the back of my book, captures the book perfectly,” she said.

The hardest part of writing for LeeAnna is starting, she said. “I needed to find inspiration to start my story and it didn’t come for many weeks. Once I had my idea, I then found it difficult discovering the problem.” She thought, “Okay, if an owl can’t ‘WHOO,’ what else could it say? Why would it need to say those things?”  The easy part was the title. “I think a title says a lot about a book and I had that right away. I knew what I wanted it the main idea to be,” she said.

Writing a picture book is only the beginning. An author/editor relationship requires patience and understanding to see the finished work in print. LeeAnna said, “The author has to remove any kind of feeling from the book and realize that though the author may be good with words, the editor knows the way in which they flow the best. My editor did a wonderful job of taking out the ‘telling’ I was doing in the story. She did however; take out my favorite part in the story where the bullies end up coming to Ollie for him to teach them his cool words. I think that is such a special moment, and I just couldn’t get rid of it.”

LeeAnna does her first drafts by hand. For her the art of handwriting has sadly decreased with the amazing technology in the world today. “I am one who needs to write things down though,” Kail said.

She also grumbles about the changes in book publishing. Two years ago, LeeAnna went to King of Prussia Mall. All she wanted to purchase was the Hunger Games series. After an hour of searching for a bookstore, she ended up calling the information desk. “Would you believe they do not have a bookstore in that GIANT mall?! I was so upset. I am one who LOVES the smell of the paper, the feel of turning to the next page and the feeling of accomplishment after physically seeing the book you just read.”

With that said, LeeAnna does think there is an inevitable decline of a traditional book. But she will continue to support the local libraries and bookstores. She has had a few local book signings and did venture into the online world with a virtual book tour through The World of Ink Network.

Learn more about LeeAnna Kail at her publisher’s website.

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